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National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrated at Vilna School

On June 21, four schools from Aspen View School Division gathered at Vilna School to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day.

VILNA – On June 21, four schools from Aspen View School Division gathered at Vilna School to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day. In addition to Vilna School, Boyle School, H.A. Kostash School from Smoky Lake, and Thorhild Central School took part in the celebrations. 

Joe Harrington, principal for Vilna School, said this was the first time that the four schools came together to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day. He said the idea was presented by Darcy Houle – the First Nations Metis Inuit (FNMI) Liaison for Vilna School. 

“We were talking last year about what it would be like to see our field full of dancing, teepees,” and other things from the Indigenous culture, said Harrington. “And he really had this vision and pushed it forward.” 

Humbly, Houle said he only presented the idea, and the day would not have been possible without the other schools, the Indigenous leaders, and everyone working together. 

“We’re all trying to work together toward truth and reconciliation. This is a start for us here,” said Houle, adding, he hopes the school division can continue to do the same event in the future. 

During the day, students had the opportunity to learn more about the Indigenous and Cree culture, including ceremonies, art, dance, and music. 

Students also learned more about what truth and reconciliation means. 

“The day is an educational opportunity for students,” said Constantine Kastrinos, superintendent of Aspen View School Division. “Whether that be learning from the Elders, the knowledge keepers, or the dancers.” 

Kastrinos said he liked to see the students be curious and interested. 

Jason Mestinsek, Boyle School’s principal, agreed. He said that by inviting Elders and dancers, it allows for a “much more rich celebration for the day.” 

Mestinsek believes that to be able to understand and respect the Indigenous people and cultures, it is important to learn more about them, their knowledge and their ways.  

“Today was just an amazing opportunity for us to do that,” he said. 

“One thing we say at school is we’re all Treaty people. We all signed the Treaty and we agreed to live in peace on the land... and we’re here to celebrate that tradition today,” Mestinsek said. 

Kastrinos concurred. In the future, “I’m hopeful that we will continue to learn together [and] that students and families will become inspired to learn more about the great culture of the First Nations people.” 

Kastrinos believes Canada is now at a stage where people have become more open and accepting. 

“Canada is about learning,” Kastrinos said. 

Clifford Cardinal is the Elder in Residence for Aspen View School Division. Cardinal was previously the cultural advisor for St. Paul Education. 

He said June 21 “is more than an Indigenous Day for our people,” but a celebration of the summer solstice through dancing and feasting together. 

Celebration in unity, “is one of the things we wanted to share with all the students... and I think we’ve attained that task today,” said Cardinal. 

The greatest way to create acknowledgement, respect and understanding is the sharing of culture and knowledge, said Cardinal. 

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