FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. –  Students in School District 60 took in a plethora of Indigenous education activities on Tuesday in celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The events took place at the Indigenous Education Centre and included storytelling, hand games, antler tossing, and Metis beading.

Linda Van Wieringen with the Fort St. John Metis Society was among those who were invited to the event and shared information with the students about the background of the Metis people and the meanings of the Metis sash.

Sashes, Puzzlebags, and other items are displayed at the Metis Society’s tent at SD60’s National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration.

“The traditional sash was usually the red one — the colours in it are red for the blood that was shed, black for the dark times that the Metis went through, green for fertility, yellow for prosperity, white for our connection to the Creator and blue for the depths of our spirit,” Van Wieringen explained.

Van Wieringen says each Metis family or community would have different colour sashes that would have different meanings and were utilized for various purposes such as sewing kits, slings, and temp lines to carry heavy hides and other items.

“If one community had a blue sash, went out hunting and killed a buffalo, they could leave their sash on that buffalo, and everyone would know that that buffalo belonged to that community,” Van Wieringen said.

She adds that the sashes could also be used as calendars by separating the threads and counting them as days.

Van Wieringen also handed out booklets to students titled: Rainbow People: A Brief History of the Metis, which included facts about the Metis People, Louis Riel, the Metis flag, dances, sacred herbs and more.

She says the key lesson she hopes the students took away from Tuesday’s festivities is one of unity.

“I hope they realize that we’re all just one people. We’re different in our indigenous cultures whether it be Inuit, Metis, First Nations, we are all one people,” Van Wieringen said.

“We need to adapt and accept our originality, our cultures and not be afraid of other people. I hope the students walk away with a good sense of belonging and embrace the culture that we have here.”

This year marked the 26th National Indigenous Peoples Day, which is observed in Canada to recognize and celebrate the cultures and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis Indigenous people throughout the country.

Spencer Hall is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca and a recent graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Radio Arts & Entertainment program. Growing up in Northwest B.C. made Spencer aware of the importance of local journalism, independent media, and reconciliation. In his spare time, you can find Spencer reading, playing video games, or at the FSJ dog park with his dog, Teddy.