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Warrior program teaches students skills, values

Students at Courtenay’s Arden Elementary finish eight-week program

Arden Elementary celebrated its ‘Warriors’ as part of National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The program has operated at the school for the last eight weeks, and the small group of students taking part had the chance to come together to sing and drum before their peers at a ceremony on the school grounds.

Daryle Mills, who oversees the school’s program, has hosted Warrior programs for decades and knows they are integral for kids, especially those at risk.

“I’ve been doing it for around 30 years,” he said.

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The kids taking part were: Jacob Rempel, Silis Audley, Caleb Maguire, Austin Ladouceur, Jayden Ewasiuk, Asher VanKerrebroeck, Tasia Hendrickson-Frank, Tyson Vickers, Kevin Stone, Dean VanKerrebroeck and Zack Romyn. Overseeing the program were Indigenous coordinators Sandi Phye, Gwen Monet and Lauren Simmons, along with Bruce Carlos, the principal of Indigenous education for the district, which sponsored the program.

Part of the aim is to teach them practical skills to help stay safe in the outdoors. This includes making shelters, learning how to start a fire without matches, becoming aware of food and plants in the surrounding environment, filtering water to make it drinkable and being aware of one’s surroundings.

“They’re still old teachings,” he said. “It’s just our value system and our skill-building.”

Another aspect of the program is the communal part that comes from singing and drumming together. Too often, people lose site of their feminine side and became combative and confrontational, but through music, Mills says, they have to put those differences aside and work together.

He and Tim Gagne, who both served as Warrior leaders, gave the students gifts prior to the event. They performed a smudging ceremony with the big drum before they all began to sing and play, while Mills gave an overview into what the songs mean.

“Now they can drum together on the big drum,” he told the other students who were on hand to watch. “We live for the person beside us. We don’t live for ourselves.”

After the thundering last beat, the students and their mentors exchanged handshakes.

Mills knows first-hand what happens when young people do not have such guidance or lose touch with their culture, as his work in counselling brings him into close contact with people facing up to the long-term effects of trauma and who may lapse into a life that brings them into the correctional system. The program hopes to instill traditional values to give the young people the basis to choose the right path.

“That’s what we call our Warriors — worthy young men,” Mills added.

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Daryle Mills (bottom right) teaches the Warrior students about the song they will play. Phto by Mike Chouinard
Students Caleb Maguire (left), Asher VanKerrebroeck, Tasia Hendrickson-Frank and Austin Ladouceur get to play the big drum in the Warrior program. Photo by Mike Chouinard
The mentors and Warriors included: Tim Gagne, Daryle Mills, Jayden Ewasiuk, Gwen Monet, Silis Audley, Jacob Rempel, Asher VanKerrebroeck, Tasia Hendrickson-Frank, Austin Ladouceur, Caleb Maguire, Lauren Simmons and Sandi Phye. (Missing from photo were Tyson Vickers, Kevin Stone, Dean VanKerrebroeck and Zack Romyn.) Photo by Mike Chouinard