A young girl's ribbon skirt has become a powerful opportunity for schools to connect current events and issues with curriculum and citizenship education.
During February, many of the division's elementary and secondary schools held a Ribbon Skirt Day that shared learning of Indigenous cultural teachings through the creation and wearing of ribbon skirts. The brightly coloured skirts are a traditional clothing piece for many Indigenous women and girls and honour their heritage, spirit, and identity.
Ribbon Skirt Day, which was held at numerous schools throughout Saskatchewan, was inspired by the story of Isabella Kulak, an elementary school student from the Cote First Nation.
Throughout the division's schools, there were learning opportunities for students and staff with leadership and guidance from the division's traditional knowledge keepers. Students shared their learning through art, poetry, and other mediums and were invited to wear or create ribbon skirts and shirts during the school day.
At Mayfair School, for example, students and staff shared their support for Isabella's story with skirts and shirts but also bulletin board and other displays within the school. The school community also gathered on the front lawn to share messages of support. A video Mayfair Celebrates Ribbon Skirt Day showcases the students' activities.
The learning and experiences at Brevoort Park School, including a virtual assembly that families were invited to attend, rippled through the school community.
"When Brevoort Park School committed to learn about the ribbon skirt teachings and to host a virtual assembly as a way to honor Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing, we anticipated it would have an impact on our staff and student body," said Principal Chantelle Balicki. "What we didn't expect, but probably should have, was the outpouring of support we would receive from our larger Brevoort Park community and our families.
"Our families who were new to these teachings expressed that they were proud of the important work we were engaging in as a school to bring attention to relevant, real-world issues. Our families who are already deeply connected to these teachings expressed how a ribbon skirt day allowed their children to be seen, heard, and acknowledged."
Balicki, along with Brevoort Park parent Carol Whitecalf and her Grade 2 daughter Cadri Bear, shared the impact of Ribbon Skirt Day with Board of Education trustees during their March meeting.
"One of the things that I really appreciated and was very fortunate to witness with the assembly with Brevort Park is the care, the research, and the learning that went on before the actual Ribbon Skirt Day," Whitecalf told trustees.
"When somebody who is not First Nations is approaching teaching other people, as they did, I'm so happy that they did it in a way that was appropriate with our protocols. A lot of people are scared to wear a ribbon skirt. Lots of different people have different knowledge about the way things should go and I think the biggest takeaway from it is that you need to have the time and you need to have the care to have the teachings behind it and wear it with honour."
The Ribbon Skirt Day learning journey of three schools — Brevoort Park, Prince Philip School and Nutana Collegiate — was highlighted during the March Board of Education meeting. Watch the full presentation in the video below.