Regina graduates on whether to celebrate Canada 150
- Katie Doke Sawatzky | July 29, 2017
The question of whether to celebrate Canada 150 or not has been a hot topic all spring, but what did high school graduates think about it? EFN caught up with some Regina students who were fresh from celebrating their own accomplishments and looking ahead to a promising future.
Micah Stonechild, a graduate from Balfour Collegiate in Regina, is the second person to complete high school in her family. She said her teachers were key to her finishing school.
“There were days when really I just thought I would want to quit…because things were getting frustrating,” she said. “[My] teachers…told me there’s going to be the hard times in life and it’s going to affect me in school and stuff but I shouldn’t let it really bother me. I should get past it.”
Even though she recognizes traumatic events like residential schools and the 60s scoop, Stonechild celebrated Canada 150 because her father is French.
“I still choose to celebrate it because it’s part of both sides of my family,” she said. “This is where my family started, this is how Canada came to be. I know it wasn’t founded on the greatest of terms but I still celebrate it because Canada has brought me a lot of opportunities.”
Tim Pinay, a graduate from Thom Collegiate, received the resiliency award at his grad for his decision to keep coming to school despite losing both his father, the late Elder Mike Pinay from Peepeekisis First Nation, and his grandfather over the past year. Encouragement from his family was key to his graduating.
“[They said] keep going, never stop doing what you’re doing,” he said.
Pinay said he wouldn’t be celebrating Canada 150 because the government just doesn’t follow through on its promises, especially when it comes to hunting rights, which aren’t honoured the same way provincially.
“[My Dad] said… doesn’t matter who you vote for, they always take our problems and put them to the bottom of the list every single time so we never get looked at,” he said.
Courtney Kirkness, also a graduate from Thom and a friend of Pinay’s, said Canada 150 makes her angry because, at least for Regina’s celebrations, not enough attention was being paid to the country’s colonial past.
“All I’ve heard is, ‘Oh, during the day down at the ledge there’s going to be some powwow dancing,’ and that’s it. What’s that supposed to do with showing anything about our past?” she said.
All three students’ critical awareness of Canada 150 celebrations is something they attribute to Native Studies, which was a favourite class for each one of them. Both Stonechild and Kirkness said their teachers made it a comfortable space to be and to talk about stereotypes.
“It was kind of a big eye-opening for me,” Kirkness said.
She said that non-Indigenous students in the class came with stereotypes about Indigenous students and left without them, something she thinks needs to happen in society if Canada can start to celebrate.
“Until some people can sort of just push [racism and stereotypes] aside then I don’t think we can keep going much farther,” she said.
Besides learning the history, the students also enjoyed connecting with their culture this year. Stonechild helped make Balfour’s star blanket and her own beaded moccasins. Pinay and Kirkness played in Thom’s drum groups, which performed around the city.
Both Stonechild and Kirkness will begin social-work studies at the University of Regina and First Nations University of Canada this fall. Pinay plans on relaxing for now and seeing where his path takes him.