Drum-making workshop fosters pride among Indigenous students at Okanagan College

By Public Affairs | December 16, 2021

A person with long dark hair is teaching two students how to lace their hand drum
Aboriginal Transitions Planner Jewell Gillies taught Indigenous students how to make a traditional hand drum

Supporting Indigenous ways of learning and doing means creating space for Indigenous students to learn cultural teachings, which can transform lives.  

That’s according to Okanagan College Aboriginal Transitions Planner Jewell Gillies, after an afternoon of teaching Indigenous students how to make a ceremonial hand drum on Dec. 9. Repatriating cultural and spiritual teachings through classes and workshops is a way to help facilitate reconciliation on-campus.

“For us to sit in our Aboriginal Services space on the Kelowna campus, to hold space for the students and have them learn and grow with their traditional knowledge: that’s the action, that’s what we can do and that’s what Okanagan College can take pride in doing,” Gillies said.

“Our students came out of that experience prouder. They stood a little bit taller. When they first came into the room they were shy but at the end, their heads were up and they were conversing confidently. Isn’t that the goal?”

Students not only learned how to make the hand drum on a practical level, but also gained an appreciation of the spiritual aspects as part of traditional teachings. For example, humility is important when crafting ceremonial items, as the energy can be imprinted onto the drum.

With OC providing not just academic and technical skills, but culturally relevant teachings as well, Indigenous students are supported in living authentically, Gillies explained. Creating spaces were students can freely learn about their culture and tradition on campus may seem simple but it creates a positive impact in students’ lives.

“(The workshop) was a beautiful moment for the students and I’m looking forward to hosting similar workshops again in the new year as well,” Gillies said.

They added that they hope to offer additional drum-making workshops in 2022 at other OC campuses, working with more instructors to continue the work of repatriating traditional knowledge and items – which ultimately unifies people.

“I’m just excited about the level of collaboration that I’ve seen from peers at the College,” they said.

To learn more about Indigenous supports at Okanagan College, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/IndigenousStudents.

Tags: Indigenization, Aboriginal Services, 2021 Year in review



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