A back to school blessing: Stucum Wi

I had thought sending my kid off to kindergarten was nerve-wracking. Then, I had to send him to school in the middle of a pandemic. And today, here we are again.

That’s my grade one’r there, with his stuffy/support crew, being drummed into a new year. If that is not a picture of all our hopes and dreams and vulnerabilities, I don’t know what is.

What’s the collective blood pressure like today, friends?

This is a threshold moment… and we all carry all kinds of baggage across thresholds. I carry memories of my own school days – a pretty big swirl of good and bad, great and terrible. I have come to understand that for many First Nations people, back to school is extremely fraught – because it is a date that signalled a mass kidnapping event, from which many children didn’t return. I’ve endangered my peace of mind reading too much about delta variant in other jurisdictions.

It’s a lot.

We’ve been asked not to cluster around the playground, in order to give the kids their space, centre their experience, and not create a super spreader event.

I respect our teachers and administrators and support staff so immensely – they saved my sanity last year, keeping school running smoothly through such strange times.

I will do whatever they ask.

And at the same time, I really need a hug.

Can I give you all a virtual one?

In 2019, Miss Marining’s class of 2018-2019 and the leaders of the Lil’wat Nation – Kukpi7 Skelulmecwm Chief Dean Nelson, the Political Chief, and Kukpi7 Gélpcal Ashley Joseph, Lil’wat’s Culture Chief, drummed all the students at Signal Hill Elementary into school.

I can’t even tell you how moved I am by this tradition. How it feels like the blessing and ceremony that we need. How much I hope that the Earth hears the beat of the drums and when we hear it, we remember we are all from the earth, all children of this great mother, we are all in this together, embarking on new paths and new adventures.

So, as we embark on this new year, juggling all our hopes and fears, and releasing our little people to their own paths, I turn again to the wisdom of Wanosts’a Dr Lorna Williams:

Stucum in my language is a very special word. It’s rarely used today, but I’ve always loved this word. Stucum is what people would say to each other when someone was going on a journey. Stucum Wi means to let the creator help you see your path. As humans, because we have such a wonderful brain, we think that it can do everything. But it’s important that we remind ourselves that we need help. Acknowledging that sometimes we need help to see the path is important when we’re walking together.”

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