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Indigenous lives told through 24-hour drumbeat in Sea to Sky

Squamish and Lil’wat youth share their culture and discuss their issues at Whistler Secondary on May 6
DRUMMING UP AWARENESS About 60 Aboriginal students from throughout the Sea to Sky School District took part in a full day of song and storytelling last May. The event is set to return to WSS May 6. By Braden Dupuis

More than 60 teens from the two indigenous nations whose communities share traditional territories in the Sea to Sky region are holding their second annual 24 Hour Drum event at Whistler Secondary School (WSS).

Squamish and Lil'wat youth with sing and drum, of course, but also discuss issues important to them, show art and read poems.

The event lasts a full 24-hour period, starting in the morning of Friday, May 6, and includes presentations and a dinner to which the public are invited.

Admittance to the dinner is by donation.

"The students are bringing aboriginal awareness to our local communities," said Susan Leslie, the aboriginal education director for Sea to Sky School District #48.

"This is aboriginal leadership. They come together with the sole purpose of reconciliation. This gives aboriginal students a voice. What they choose to raise awareness about has been their choice.

"Last year, they raised awareness about what it is like to be aboriginal today."

The 2016 aboriginal leadership students are exploring language revitalization through learning from elders a drum song or dance and sharing it with other nations.

They will also look at environmental impacts on their traditional territories, focusing on energy consumption and extraction.

"Obviously, LNG (liquid natural gas) has a big impact for the Squamish Nation, so there is a lot on this in the Grade 7 to 12 students' presentations. Others are presenting about clean water."

Fundraising and giving is part of the event, with last year's donation going to Walking With Our Sisters, a commemorative walking art installation for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

"All funds raised this year are for Res'eau-WaterNET, which was started out of the UBC engineering department. It promotes a community approach to solving water problems in small systems. The organization works with all stakeholders in providing innovative solutions for small first nations communities in bringing clean water to them," Leslie said.

The event will start with flags from both the Lil'wat and Skwxwœ7mesh Nations being raised at WSS at 11 a.m. to represent their shared territory.

It will be the first time the indigenous flags will have been raised, and will be attended by Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, as well as chiefs from both nations.

Leslie said the push has shifted toward social justice, with the emphasis on change and reconciliation.

"The students have directed that change in their wanting to take action," she said.

"It's a amazing event."

As well as WSS students, participants taking part are from schools in Pemberton, Squamish, Sechelt, Head of the Lake School and Xey'olacw Community School.

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