When Grade 4’s from across the Bulkley Valley school district gathered in Moricetown for a learning feast last Wednesday, you could take attendance in lunches served.
“We made 253 sandwiches,” said aboriginal principal Birdy Markert with a laugh.
Sharing food is an important sign of a Wet’suwet’en feast, as Silverthorne student Desiree Carlson learned.
“You have to say yes to all the food,” Carlson said. “If you don’t want it, you can put it in a bag and bring it home.”
Markert said the Moricetown band has been hosting the annual learning feast for more than a decade. It’s a fitting way to finish the Grade 4 unit on Wet’suwet’en culture, she said, which covers everything from clan structure to food gathering and Wet’suwet’en legends.
Storyteller Mel Bazil led the students into one of those legends—the story of a Wet’suwet’en trapper who was richly rewarded for his kind-heartedness and respect for nature.
Markert herself took part in the feast activities, showing the students the regalia she wears a chief of the Laksilyu clan—an eagle-feather headdress and a nelt’ic, or traditional blanket, that is 80 years old.
Teacher Erin Williamson said her class at Silverthorne made miniature versions of the blanket before the feast, felting on the Wet’suwet’en clan crests and adding beads for decoration.Williamson said her students had lots of questions about Wet’suwet’en culture, especially about gaffe and seine-net fishing.
Markert said she was impressed by how well-behaved the students were throughout the three-hour learning feast.
“I love how much they wanted to help,” she said, noting how many students followed feast hall tradition by standing up to make a donation—in this case, pocket change—to the head table. Every donation was recognized and went to buying books for the local library.