Grade 6/7 teacher Joslyn Bagg (left) and a student display one of the blankets.

Hazelton students present button blankets to elders at Wrinch Memorial Hospital

The project was a chance for students to learn about the importance of blankets in Gitxsan culture

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This event took place before a number of provincial restrictions pertaining to hospitals and care facilities in response to COVID-19

A number of elders at Wrinch Memorial Hospital received a special treat earlier this month when students from Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary (MGAE) dropped by to present them with button blankets made in the traditional Gitxsan style.

The ceremony was a culmination of work between MGAE Grade 6 and 7 students and the school’s Gitxsan Language and Culture teacher Gwen Simms.

READ MORE: Hazelton hospital second most crowded in B.C.

Working with Simms, students were able to learn about the significance of the button blankets within Gitxsan culture. This includes the importance of the crest, the meaning of the colours of the blanket and the Gitxsan tradition of leaving a mistake in the finished blanket, which is done so that future generations can have something to mend.

One by one, each one of the students presented a handmade blanket to an elder.

The school’s Grade 2/3 class was also present and serenaded the elders with a number of songs.

Grade 6/7 teacher Joslyn Bagg said the project was designed to honour the First Peoples Principles of Learning (FPPL) which is an element of the BC Curriculum which stresses that “learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.” The principle offers educators a number of guidelines to help incorporate a number of Indigenous theories of learning into the Province’s school system.

“Students used their learning to give back to their community,” said Bagg. “This helped the students connect to their community and realize that the past connects to the future and to move forward in [a] positive light one must recognize the past.”

Bagg said when a student was asked how she felt about this project, the student said it was a lot of work making the blankets but ‘it was worth it when they saw the looks of appreciation on the Elders faces’.

The class has completed numerous other blankets that they plan to give to elders in the school community during an April ceremony to thank them for their continued support of MGAE.

With B.C. schools currently suspended indefinitely due to COVID-19, it is unclear when this ceremony will take place.
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