Delta students, teachers invited to ‘Roc Your Mocs’ to celebrate diversity


DELTa (NEWS 1130) —  Next week the Delta School District will be encouraging students and teachers to take a step toward reconciliation and decolonization in education.

On March 11 the district is inviting everyone to “wear and share some teachings about different cultural footwear, including moccasins.” The event is called ‘Roc Your Mocs’ and was inspired by an initiative launched in the U.S. in 2011 as part of a celebration of National Native American Heritage Month

Indigenous Cultural Enhancement Facilitator Nathan ‘Kanaax Kuwoox’ Wilson, whose ancestry is Coast Salish through the Tsawwassen and Musqueam First Nations, as well as the Yukon Territory, says the premise is simple but significant.

“From the start of the day to the end of the day, people are going to be able to wear their cultural footwear, whether they have moccasins or not. They can have something from their own cultural background, if you don’t have moccasins you have slippers, and if you don’t have slippers you have cool socks,” he explains.

“We’re on this journey of reconciliation, so just to show the pride that we have within our ancestry, just to share it. Our role within the Delta school district is Indigenous Education, and we felt that this was a really good opportunity for people to connect. When I say people I mean the young learners as well as the educators. We will be encouraging all students — non-Indigenous and Indigenous — to take part, to show their pride in their culture and their ancestry.”

Wilson says he too is approaching the event as an opportunity to learn.

“As much as I am an educator I love learning from these young ones about their background because I only have one perspective and that’s from me and my family, but learning from them is very important as well.”

Teachers in the district were invited to participate in a series of workshops throughout February where they learned to make “pucker-toe” moccasins. These workshops also sparked important conversations about Indigenous cultures, and an appreciation for the craft of moccasin-making.

“That was just a part of our being able to connect further with the employees, the educators in the Delta school district, so that they can have pride in sharing in the knowledge — and sharing the knowledge that we’ve shared with them.”

“It was really interesting. It was quite an experience for them to do the work that they did. Some of these family members actually have children who go to the Delta school District so they were sitting around when they were doing the work, they were watching, they were engaging in the conversations that we had. We were teaching the educators, but the educators were also teaching their families right away.”

Vice Principal of Indigenous Education Diane Jubinville, who is from the Pasqua Cree Nation in Fort Qu’appelle, Saskatchewan, on her mother’s side and from the Francophone Nation of St. Boniface, Manitoba, on her father’s side, explains how the event furthers the Calls To Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

“There’s about four calls to action that are specific to education. A lot of that is learning about Indigenous history, our shared history, and learning about residential schools,” she explains.

“It’s also about building student capacity for cultural understanding and empathy. There’s a lot of teacher training involved in that and so when we can get the teachers involved and learning themselves that can be passed on to the students.”

Delta’s Indigenous Education Department has a mandate to “ensure the success of all students with Indigenous Ancestry in the District,” and to help ensure the district is “bringing Indigenous culture and history to all learners across all of the grades.”

Jubinville says while graduation rates have increased for Indigenous students from about 60 per cent to about 80 per cent over eight years. But there is still work to be done, and events like this are one way to move toward decolonizing the education system.

“It’s so exciting to be in Indigenous education at the time,” she says.

Both Wilson and Jubinville say that using Zoom allows them to reach even more students and teachers. District-wide events like ‘Roc Your Mocs’ are something they plan to continue post-pandemic.

“COVID has given us a really great opportunity to enter the classroom, a lot more than we were able to in the past,” Jubinville says.

Roc Your Mocs March 11 (1)

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