Event helps staff better understand First Nations
Kelsey Starblanket says that he was honoured to have been invited to do the Smudging Ceremony with the staff at Kipling School last week.
Starblanket is from Star Blanket Cree Nation (north of Balcarres) and has served for over 21 years as First Nations Liaison for Prairie Valley School Division. He explains that his visit to the school last week was intended to provide staff members with a better understanding of First Nation culture and ways of knowing.
“This is the first time that I’ve been here, and I came because my friend (Principal David Bircher) asked me to. It’s easier when you come to a place through connection like that. But I would have come here as part of my job too.
“It’s important to go to new places and share with people. It’s important to show them what we do and why we do it.
“When people don’t know something – they fear it. But if you expose them to it, then they understand that it’s not so bad. It’s not hocus-pocus. They realize that we aren’t doing anything bad. We do everything that others do when they go to church or when they take part in a special ceremony. But we do it our way.
“And if people have a better understanding of our way, and why we do what we do – they also see why our way needs to be respected.”
Starblanket is a Knowledge Carrier who says that he has reached a time in his life – when he is able to invite those he encounters to receive the insights into First Nations culture and tradition that he brings to them
“I’m a Knowledge Carrier. I carry traditional knowledge and give it to others as I go. I didn’t grow up this way. But I’ve come to know that this is our way. We do everything that we do for a reason.
“But you have to be given the right to speak. Before…when I was younger…it was my time to listen. Now, I’m a Mooshom – a grandfather. So…it’s my turn to talk. I’ve been given the right to speak now.”
He says that he frequently talks to youth at schools which have a large number of First Nation students attending (such as the schools in Balcarres and Fort Qu’Appelle) and adds that the youth at those school are receptive to the knowledge he has carried to them.
“The youth respond very well in those schools. And we teach all of the different ways in our culture – our song and dance – sweats and ceremonies. That’s all part of who we are. So, we want to keep moving forward that way for their benefit.”
However, during the time that Starblanket spent with the staff at Kipling School, he spoke about living in balance – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – something which he says is important for everyone no matter what their cultural background might be.
“The importance of having balance in those four areas – emotional, physical, mental and spiritual – is common to all. It’s universal. Life is hard if you don’t have that balance.
“I was taught that a long time ago. I’ve worked with elders all my life. One of the things that they taught me (and I didn’t understand at first) is that it’s hard to make your life easy – but easy to make your life hard.
“That was fundamental for me…that changed me. As I thought about what that could mean, I understood that you have to work hard now so that your life will be easy in the future.
“It’s common sense. But I didn’t get it at first. I was too crazy then – too crazy and fooling around. But once I settled down. I started working hard – my life got better. I went to school, found my wife and settled down (because that’s what a woman does – they settle you down. They ground you).
“So now…when I do something…I have the future in mind…the way that my grandfathers did for me. And I tell my kids that the decisions that they make today are not for them, but for their kid’s kids. The decisions they make are for the future…so their grandkids will have something too.”
Although those attending the Smudging Ceremony at Kipling School were adult staff members, Starblanket says it is his hope that the students will benefit from it.
“I don’t really do what I do for the adults. I do it for the kids. The kids are why I’m here. And I’m not here by myself. I brought my son-in-law (Kirk Chief) with me. I brought my Mooshom. And I brought my (seeseekwan)…my rattle…to help me carry this message to these people.
“I’ve come today to start the year off in a good way…and open the door for you and for this school. Now it’s your job to keep that door open and be mindful of what you do and what you say. Because this school is a sacred place – and the kids you will be teaching are the sacred people.”