Indigenous Students sitting on a bench in front of a large drum Abby Middle - Indigenous Room 2024

Leq’á:leqel~ Creating Space for the Journey

June 26, 2024

Abbotsford Middle School is home to 120 Indigenous students distributed across 24 divisions. This is the highest caseload of all middle schools in the school district. The students, staff, and administration are committed to prioritizing cultural care and connection each week. Teachers and administrators continue to work to develop their understanding of what action items they can do at our school site to support our Indigenous students. One such action item is called, Protected Cultural Teaching.

At the beginning of each year, classroom teachers are provided a schedule with a set block each week for cultural teachings for Indigenous students in their pod. “We have shifted our thinking from a ‘drop-in’ format to prioritizing protected Indigenous teaching blocks. It’s not an add-on. It’s integrated into our master schedule because teachers understand the value it brings to our Indigenous students and the broader school community,” says Shawn Mani, Abbotsford Middle School Teacher.

All Indigenous students are invited to participate, but they are never forced to do so. The Indigenous teacher and ISW share specific cultural teachings in the Indigenous room. Students learn about Sacred Circles, Code Talkers, Totems, Ancient Civilizations on the West Coast, and Indigenous Governance, to name a few. Abby Middle’s Indigenous department has developed a year plan pairing teachings with the seasons and developing vertical alignment specific to the grade curriculum.

Every March, Abby Middle celebrates the Arctic Games. Indigenous students learn about Inuit games in their cultural blocks and then teach them to students in their PE classes. “It’s wonderful to see their eyes light up when they share their culture with their peers. It’s an opportunity to provide some cultural healing, and it becomes a source of pride for our Indigenous students,” says Lauren MacTavish, Abbotsford Middle School Teacher. “School needs to be the place where Indigenous culture is returned to the people. We need to make time for it and have the infrastructure to support it.”

Students enjoy their weekly cultural block as it provides them with a sense of belonging and pride in their cultural identity. 

“We like coming here because it serves as a safe space and provides a quieter and calmer environment. It’s a place to relax, learn and catch up on work. We get to see our amazing Indigenous teacher.”

“Another thing that the indigenous learnings provide us is to teach and show our parents what we learned in the class, telling them things that they might not have known before, and letting them learn more about their own culture.”

Our school culture is enriched because of our protected cultural teachings. As our Indigenous students and staff feel a sense of belonging, they become ambassadors for the rest of the school community. We raise our hands with gratitude to all those who have given so much to provide a beautiful space and protected time for our Indigenous students to feel care and belonging. Kw`As Hoy.

Abbotsford Middle School