Grouard Elder teaches hand games at Slave Lake

Herman Sutherland has students open their hands to see if their opponents found the item in their hand. He spoke to E.G. Wahstrom School students about drumming and taught them hand games on March 15.

Pearl Lorentzen
For South Peace News

March 15, E.G. Wahlstrom Elementary School students in Slave Lake had the opportunity to learn about Indigenous culture.

Herman Sutherland, an Elder from Grouard, taught the students how to play hand games. Indigenous peoples in Canada have played hand games throughout history.

Drums are part of hand games. Sutherland spoke to the children about drumming before the game started. In the past, drumming was only done by men. However, in Cree country women are now allowed to do it. He encouraged the girls if anyone told them they are not allowed, to tell them he said they were allowed.

Carrie McGillivray, High Prairie School Division First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) success coach facilitated the hand games. Describing hand games, McGillivray says, “two teams, one ‘hiding’ and one ‘guessing,’ sit opposite one another; one player from each team is called a ‘shooter.’ They are the ones that are going to guess where the players from the opposite team are hiding their rocks, in one of their hands. While the other team sings, and uses traditional instruments (drums, sticks, rattles, clappers), and attempts to distract the ‘guessing’ team. The team with the most sticks wins a round. There is usually three rounds of play to declare a winner.”

Cree stars

Meanwhile, in the gym, Wilfred Buck used a planetarium to teach about Indigenous perspectives on stars.

Buck calls his presentation, “Ininiw Acakosuk . . . the Cree stars.”

On March 15-16, he taught Grade 6, Grade 9 (from Roland Michener Secondary School), and Sawridge First Nation members. The Grade 6 students are learning about stars in science.

The planetarium is a dome that looks a bit like a cross between a black yurt and a cloth igloo, that is ventilated (and possibly kept upright) with an air blower like a bouncy castle. Inside, the stars are projected on the inner walls, providing conditions similar to a clear night outside.

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