Perfect weather conditions were the order of the day as over 100 Grade 5 students from six elementary schools in the district gathered for the fourth annual knobby ball tournament on May 3. This year’s event was held at Diamond Vale School.

Knobby balls.

Knobby balls.

Knobby ball (also known as double-ball) is a centuries-old aboriginal game that has been played in various forms throughout North America. Similar in some ways to lacrosse (which is also First Nations in origin, and is Canada’s national summer sport), it involves two teams of players competing to get a ‘double-ball’ across a goal line, or hit a target. Participants use special sticks about three feet in length with a hook on the end to scoop up the double-ball, as well as run, pass and catch with it.

Judging from the enthusiasm and excitement of the students on hand at Diamond Vale School, the game was a real hit.

“Double-ball was originally only played by women,” SD 58 First Nations support worker Crystal McMaster told the Herald back in 2013 on the occasion of the first knobby ball tournament, “but today it’s played by both genders and all ages.”

McMaster went on to say that in the early days, games of double-ball could go on for days, and cover miles of territory.

District principal of aboriginal education Shelley Oppenheim-Lacerte said that holding the knobby ball tournament each year is just one part of an on-going initiative to meet the goals of the Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement that was implemented by SD 58 in 2012.

“Those goals are health and wellness, language and culture, self-worth and identity, and academic success,” Oppenheim-Lacerte said.

On April 21, Grade 7 students from throughout the district convened in Princeton to participate in a series of traditional aboriginal games.

Last fall, it was the Grade 6s who engaged in a ‘lahal’ tournament — another time-honoured First Nations sport.

“We’re really excited to have this new curriculum — where aboriginal education is being integrated through all grades and subject areas in our schools,” Oppenheim-Lacerte said.

“We have a strong team of First Nations support workers in each of the elementary and secondary schools, who plan and implement events and activities — not only at their own schools but throughout the district.

“On June 9, we will be having a First Nations Grade 12 graduation ceremony at the high school, and we’re also planning a Grade 7 activity to help with the students’ transition to high school.

“Next year, our focus will be on helping our First Nations support workers in the schools to further connect with classroom teachers in integrating aboriginal content into the day-to-day curriculum.”