Smiths Falls – Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute (SFDCI) has been honoured with a Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Youth Achievement for the creation and organization of the Spirit of the Drum Education Powwows.
Students Skyler Findlay and Bryce McKenny accepted the award on behalf of their peers during a February 22 ceremony at Queen’s Park in Toronto. The award
recognizes student involvement in both the 2017 and 2018 powwows.
“The award honours the relationships established between students and staff at SFDCI, Indigenous community partners, the Town of Smiths Falls and the community of Smiths Falls as they worked tirelessly to demonstrate reconciliation in action through the Spirit of the Drum Powwow,” said Gail Brant-Terry, UCDSB Principal of Indigenous Education.
“We know that these powwows bring a quality experience to the community as we strive toward reconciliation, and they offer our students experiential learning in its finest form.
It is really motivating and rewarding to see the hard work of our students and staff recognized by the province,” she added.
Blake Seward, a lead on the teaching team for this project at SFDCI said, “This award reinforces for our students that they’re doing meaningful activities because their work was not only validated by the community, but by the Lieutenant Governor as well.”
The 2018 powwow, held June 9 and 10 in Smiths Falls, was made possible through the efforts of dozens of students as well as Mohawk Elder David Jock, and the SFDCI
teaching team of Seward, Paul Merridew, Jeff Burns, Doug Miller, and Rebecca Soudant. It was designed as a culminating project to promote the concept of reconciliation, and involved student work from a variety of courses such as art, technology, history, hospitality and Indigenous studies. It demonstrated how experiential
learning fosters a deeper connection for students as they discover other cultures.
The powwow featured Indigenous dancers, a gallery of artwork bearing information on missing or murdered indigenous women, a display on the sacrifices of Indigenous
servicemen, and booths featuring information on native culture.
The event welcomed the Akwesasne Mohawks as well as the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, from which over 100 members attended. The powwow connects the school and local community – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – in a celebration of learning, teaching and reconciliation.
Approximately 3,000 visitors have attended the two-day event each year.