First Nation youth share their experiences through 24 Hour Drum

Event set to take place at WSS on May 6

It’s their message, their story and their hopes for the future.

After months of work, the more than 60 students who make up the Sea to Sky School District’s Aboriginal Youth Leadership Team are set to share projects with the community — highlighting everything from culture to local environmental issues through spoken word, poetry, film and art.

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On Friday, May 6, following the raising of the Skwxwu7mesh and Lil’wat Nations’ flags at Whistler Secondary School, the public is invited to attend evening presentations and a dinner as part of the 24 Hour Drum, a gathering that aims to shed light on aboriginal issues, said Susan Leslie, the school district aboriginal education director.

“This year they have chosen to raise awareness about industry and the environment and the impact on local communities,” Leslie said, noting Woodfibre LNG is on the Squamish students’ radar.

Saving their traditional languages was also seen as a priority for the students, she noted. Indigenous languages are disappearing across B.C. at an alarming rate. In 2010, the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council labeled the Skwxwu7mesh snichim (Squamish language) to be critically endangered. At the time, only 10 people were considered fluent speakers.

“There is no way that we see the life of language and culture surviving in our communities without speakers,” Leslie said. “And so right now we are trying to revitalize all indigenous languages in the province of B.C.”

The students, who come from schools in Pemberton, Squamish, the Xet’olacw Community School, Head of the Lake School and Sechelt, set about learning a traditional song in the language of their territory. Along with the environmental presentations, which include videos, spoken word, poetry and artwork, the traditional songs will be sung at the event.

“It will be quite exciting,” Leslie said.

The dinner is by donation. Money from the event will go toward Res’eau WaterNET Project. The organization, which was selected by the students, develops technologies to provide clean drinking water to small, rural communities.

“What they do is they find water solutions by bringing all stakeholders together and they go into small First Nation communities and solve their water problems,” Leslie said.

As with previous years, the students will also be hosting presentations in their various schools to other students, teachers and family members. The pupils from across the district met four times during the school year to set up and organize the various events.

“This is such a fabulous opportunity for aboriginal students across our district to meet and refuel and it is really what reconciliation is about,”

Leslie said, adding non-aboriginal students are also involved in the process and a part of the reconciliation movement.

The lead up to the event, and the evening itself, is being filmed for the production of a documentary, Leslie said. A 34-minute documentary was put together showcasing last year’s event. It is now touring film festivals across Canada.

The dinner and presentations start at 5:30 p.m.and run until 7:30 p.m.

To learn more about the 24 Hour Drum visit sd48seatosky.org.

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