The First Day


I had this wild imagining one day… imagine if we injected more ceremony into our lives? Around our kids? What if, I thought, we welcomed them to school en masse – all the parents and caregivers, standing in a giant circle, sharing a prayer for their safety and wellness for the year to come, all sending our best vibes to the school community, that the teachers and staff and kids should feel celebrated and safe there… It was one of my many random out-there ideas that I let slip away. It felt nice. But I’m hardly going to post a Facebook invitation to people to come and hold hands on the oval and “pray” together… That’s a long way from my wheelhouse. And I would feel very very naked standing out there all alone…

Then, an email landed in my in-box a few days before the start of school, advising that the students of Signal Hill Elementary should go to the field, on the first day, and not to their old classrooms, as was the initial plan. Because they would be drummed into school.




Bill Ritchie, a member of the Lil’wat Nation who has worked as an ambassador at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre for many years, told me that the sound of the drum is powerful to us, because it reminds us of the sound of our mother’s heart, when we were nestled just beneath it, before we came forth into the world.

Another birthing took place, of a renewed school community last week. And the drummers were there.

And not just any drummers.

I couldn’t be there because of work obligations, but my partner took some photos, and when I saw them, my heart swelled up for several beats.


Leading the students of Miss Marining’s class of 2018-2019 were the leaders of the Lil’wat Nation – Kukpi7 Skelulmecwm Chief Dean Nelson, the Political Chief, and Kukpi7 Gélpcal Ashley Joseph, Lil’wat’s new Culture Chief.

I’m not sure if this fits into their official job descriptions. I can’t imagine how many things are on their daily to-do lists. That they drummed the students of Signal Hill into their first day of school, strikes me, as a beautiful act of generosity to the entire community, and a powerful blessing.

I am grateful.

It’s really what I secretly wished for, but didn’t have the skills or authority or the ability to implement. But there are people among us with those skills, that authority, that ability.

And they offered those up for us all.

Kuk’stum’kalap’, Kukpi7 Skelulmecwm and Kukpi7 Gélpcal. 




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