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24 Hour Drum comes to Pemberton

Sea to Sky students will dance and drum April 27 in celebration of Indigenous culture and language
Psyched Pemberton Secondary School student Jocelyn Gabriel will take place in the year's 24 Hour Drum. photo submitted

Students and educators are gearing up for this year's 24 Hour Drum, a Sea to Sky tradition that brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous students together in celebration of Indigenous culture.

For Grade 12 student Jocelyn Gabriel, this will mark the first time she's taken part.

"I've been watching for so long, I just wanted to get involved this year," she said. "It embraces life, and it brings the whole community together."

The event switches locations every year, and this time around, it's being held at Gabriel's school—Pemberton Secondary School.

The event is organized by the Pala7lhkalh Stumuxh Indigenous Youth Council, which is made up of 80 students from Pemberton Secondary School, Whistler Secondary School, Xet'olacw Community School, Howe Sound Secondary School, Sea to Sky Learning Expeditions and Don Ross Middle School.

Yet contrary to what one might expect, the council is open to all students, not just First Nations ones.

"We're willing to take in anyone who is willing to put in effort," explained Gabriel.

"We're not going to turn anyone away. We're happy to tell everyone our history, (and) what's happening right now."

In recent years, Sea to Sky Indigenous students have seen some astonishing success in the classroom. In 2009-10, the grad rate for Indigenous learners sat at just 39 per cent. Last year, that number topped 86 per cent—the highest Indigenous completion rate anywhere in the province.

According to Susan Leslie, SD 48's principal of Indigenous Education, the 24 Hour Drum is a highlight of the year and important confidence builder.

"This is what I look forward to most every year. Why? I see powerfully engaged youth laughing, sharing, and singing; I see them feeling strong and empowered; I hear them using their voice; I see confidence in their actions and behaviours," said Leslie.

"The goal is to connect Indigenous youth with their identity, their culture and language and traditions and elders in their communit." Steve Evans, a teacher at Pemberton Secondary, said he's excited that in addition to the daytime performance, an evening performance, in Mount Currie, will be offered as well.

"The students came up with the idea to do it in the community at the Ullus in Lil'wat territory with the hope it would be more inclusive," he explained, adding that the event is open to everyone—and that he hopes many people come out. "Whether you live in Lil'wat Pemberton or Birken, I hope people feel welcome to come," he said.

For Gabriel, the opportunity to put on regalia and perform for friends, family and the broader Sea to Sky community has added significance.

"Some of us just recently found out what happened in our past," she explained. "But living in the past is not going to make us happy. We're just going to take it in, and we're going to make sure our voices are going to be heard."

The daytime performance will take place at Pemberton Secondary from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and the evening event will be at the Ullus in Mount Currie from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. (feast) and 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. (powwow) Friday, April 27.

All are welcome; an optional food donation is welcomed.