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Connection to Indigenous Culture Supported by Hands-On Drum Project

Twenty students from Grades 8-12 at Burnaby South Secondary spent several months making an Indigenous drum under the guidance of Elder Phillip Gladue, who is Métis-Cree and originally from Alberta.

The students who worked on the project are also Indigenous. Gladue worked to empower each student through a connection with cultural teachings.

Along with Youth and Family Engagement worker Gena Sanderson, teacher Matthew Mitchell organized the student experience.

Mr Mitchell:

Any time spent with an Elder is valuable time spent. The project was also meant to be a hands-on experience to help grow a connection to culture and heritage.”

The project began just before the pandemic and was delayed for a time. Over the course of the last school year and the beginning of this one, students worked hands-on: measuring the drum, punching holes in the hide, and cutting long strips to use for stringing. They learned about the process of soaking the hide and measuring and cutting the wood pieces.

As the students worked with Elder Phil, he spoke with them about the nature of the drum and how it is meant to bring people together and be shared by the community. Mitchell says after years of borrowing a drum from other schools, the students are excited to have one close by and have created a drum group.

Rob Smyth is the District Principal of Indigenous Education. He says examples such as this are one of the many opportunities students have in school to connect with culturally relevant programming: 

The work happening at Burnaby South Secondary is amazing. We are very grateful to Elder Phillip Gladue for sharing his drum teachings and we appreciate the engagement of students and staff to strengthen learning. The sound of the drum is heard across the Burnaby School District, and it is a very powerful way to bring community together.”


Posted December 2020