Alberta School Highlights Métis Culture

This article was originally written by Erin Halonen and published in the Canadian Bison Association Smoke Signals Magazine, February 2022.

The Canadian Bison Smoke Signals publication Cover Feb. 2022

Métis Week, November 15th – 21st, is held annually in Alberta as a time to highlight the culture, history, and contributions of the Métis people. This year, Thorhild Central School, located in rural Alberta an hour north of Edmonton, focused on Métis week teaching and learning initiatives, highlighting the important historical connection between bison and the people of the plains, specifically the Métis. 

Bison Rug and Métis Sash on display.

A generous donation of bison meat from the Canadian Bison Association allowed all students and staff to enjoy two bison and bannock meals, featured as free lunches through the Bulldog Bistro, the school’s onsite canteen. For many, experiencing the delicious, lean treat was a first. 

“We are fortunate to be in a community that fervently supports education,” said the school districts Education for Reconciliation coordinator Erin Halonen, “several community organizations including our local CO-OP food store, TEAM (the school’s parent volunteer fundraising group), and the school’s canteen contractor all contributed resources to support the bison stew, and bison bannock burger meals.”

A local bison producer, Croswell Bison Ranch, allowed the school to display their bison hide. Here, students could experience the hide in a very tactile way. Informational posters displayed around the hide shared history and importance of bison to the survival of the people of the plains; including how the Métis people formed complex bison hunting governance systems. Students also learned about the decimation of bison populations, and the importance of bison conservation efforts and stewardship of our natural environment.

Ryder McLean, grade 5 student, wrote a reflection about his learning from the week. He said, “ My favorite part of the week was eating the bison burger and stew. I liked Métis week. I will remember that Métis people are important.” 

Thorhild Central School serves approximately 317 students in Great Beginnings pre-school  to Grade 12.

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Erin Halonen is an Education for Reconciliation co-ordinator, Educator and the former First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Curriculum Consultant in the Curriculum Implementation and Resources Branch, Alberta Education. Her passion for Education for Reconciliation and Indigenous Ways of Knowing was born through her lived experience in Treaty 6 territory with local Cree First Nations community. Embedded in her allyship work is deep sense of agency to urge the education system to move forward in reconciliatory understanding and action.

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