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Blog: Friday, December 6th, 2019

Only a Dream Away!

New to the district, new to Dr. Roberta Bondar Elementary, and new to his role as our Indigenous Support Worker (ISW) is John Britton.  John may be new to this busy life of students, staff, and block changes, but his feet are firmly rooted in his mission to bring about awareness of Indigenous culture, reconciliation, and education to our school community.  One innovative undertaking that John has committed himself to, which he hopes will be an annual event, is Bondar’s “First Salmon Ceremony”.

The “First Salmon Ceremony” is a Sto:lo tradition.  The ceremony celebrates the first salmon who come back up our streams and rivers in the springtime.  The Sto:lo people give thanks to the salmon who feed the people, nourish their bodies, and sustain their lives.

“Every year Stó:lō people along the Fraser River have a First Salmon Ceremony to show honour and respect to the Salmon for giving its life to nourish them.  The first one caught is cooked in the traditional way and shared with everyone present at the ceremony.  The bones are then collected and placed back into the river with a prayer thanking Chichelh Siyá:m for the salmon.  The purpose of the ceremony is to ensure that there will be plenty of salmon for all Stó:lō families during the fishing season to provide for their nourishment in the winter months.” Quote taken from: -  Sto:lo Research and Management Centre.

With 300 students, 35 staff members, and any number of volunteers and family members who will attend this event, John’s undertaking is to be admired.  With support from our Abbotsford Indigenous Department, Roseanne Greene, Vice Principal from Blue Jay Elementary, and the amazing Bondar staff, we are here to see John Britton’s dream become a reality.

John has secured 117 acres of private farm/forest property on Bradner Road in Abbotsford to host this event for our school community.  Students, staff, and parent volunteers will arrive early in the morning, gather in pre-determined Indigenous clans, and walk together through the forest stopping at 6 different stations where Sto:lo teachings will take place. Under the forest canopy in the cedar grove, next to the pond, or in one of the many fields, our clans will learn about the Sto:lo people – fishing tools used, flora and fauna eaten, drumming performed, stories told, games played, dancing enjoyed, etc.

Of course, the day’s event and celebration would not be complete without the traditionally prepared Sto:lo salmon meal for all of our participants.  John’s guests, Chief’s, and dignitaries will gather with our school community in the riding ring of this farm.  Here, we will become part of the Sto:lo ceremony; giving thanks, praying for abundance in our waterways for winter, and participating in the collection of bones. 

What a rich and rewarding endeavor!  Innovation is only as big as the dream you can imagine.  Fortune is ours for your dream, John!  In time, maybe this will become the world’s undertaking!

(Take care)

Paulette Collier
Dr. Roberta Bondar Elementary