Photo by Scott Strasser

Big House Experience provides Grade 4 students a glimpse into Indigenous culture

The annual event has become a popular part of the social studies curriculum

Grade 4 students from across the Comox Valley were at the K’omoks First Nation on May 17 for the Band’s yearly Big House Experience.

The annual event, which has gone on for over a decade, showcases some traditional Kumugwe dances and gives the students a glimpse into the Band’s culture.

Considering local Indigenous history is a part of the social studies curriculum, School District 71 Aboriginal curriculum support teacher Gail Martindale said the annual event has a strong impact on students.

“I think they take back a broader understanding of what First Nations peoples are about. They get to learn a little bit of their history, their culture, and hear the songs and dances that have been passed on through many generations of people,” she said. “It sticks with them.”

Video by Scott Strasser

Students in attendance learned about how traditional dances are done in a counter-clockwise direction around the central fire pit, and how eagle down is considered a sign of peace.

Band member and artist Andy Everson led the proceedings. He said he’s met adults who tell him the Big House Experience was something they considered a highlight of their time in school.

“It’s a chance for us to share some of our culture, some of our dances with them,” he said. “For us, I think that’s really important, to share a positive aspect of Indigenous culture with other people.”

While the Big House Experience is primarily an educational endeavor, some fun was also sprinkled into the mix. The event ended with a peace dance involving all the students, which followed a dance-off between two members representing the full moon and the half moon, and a surprise cameo appearance from Darth Vader.

More than 600 students attended two presentations.

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