Over 150 grade six students from elementary school across School District 58 gathered last week to participate in the annual Traditional Games, a sporting and cultural event organized by a committee of the district’s Aboriginal Advisory Council.  

Students were placed in groups, which included students from other schools, after arriving at Collettville Elementary for the day of fun and learning. Each group then tried their hand at a number of stations that included traditional and cultural games played by Indigenous peoples in the area for thousands of years. Shelley Oppenheim-Lacerte, SD58’s director of instruction for Indigenous education, said the games are an opportunity for cultural connection and learning. 

“Looking at our culture and our ways, we wanted to be able to provide these teachings and these events for an awareness, not only for our students, but for our staff,” said Oppenheim-Lacerte.

“We’re bringing our communities together to enjoy and to practice some of our different games that we were able to provide. Pulling together that information we connect with resource people and some of our Elders, and we talk through some of the things that we’d like to implement.”

The Traditional Games consisted of a number of stations, run by Elders and other knowledge keepers, including lahal, a traditional stick game, hoop jump, spear and rock throw, handball, knobbyball, and big drumming. Knobbyball and lahal used to be separate of the Traditional Games, but the events were later amalgamated for a combined experience.

Members of the Traditional Games organizing committee, which includes input from Oppenheim-Lacerte and support workers Martha Chillihitizia and Dawn Williams, told the Herald that the event is a opportunity for students to connect with each other, Indigenous culture and knowledge, and have some fun out in the sun. A particularly popular station at this year’s Traditional Games was rock throw, where participants used beanbags to ‘hunt’ plastic chickens.

“A long time ago, when the hunters used to go hunting for small game like chickens and turkey, they used rocks,” explained Martha Chillihitzia, a First Nations support worker with the district who has been involved with the Traditional Games since the event’s inception.

“We have chickens over there and beanbags for target [practice]. We also have handball, so, a long time ago, with knobbyball and handball, when a couple of the tribes would get together, they would have some games against each other. Same with high kick, it was just to see who can kick they highest.” 

Organizational efforts for the next Traditional Games are in full swing, and include collaborations with a number of local Elders, organizations, and other resources.

For more information on events held by the SD58 Aboriginal Advisory Council and its committees, visit www.abed.sd58.bc.ca.