Mills Haven honours spirit of reconciliation
Mills Haven Elementary welcomed a new member to their community with a special ceremony this week.
A Spirit Bear, which is a stuffed bear that helps students learn about reconciliation and what it means to live on treaty land, was given a naming ceremony with the entire school taking part.
Elder Wilson Bearhead headed the ceremony on Monday, Dec. 2 and helped the students choose a name related to the land he is from. Spirit Bear was officially given the moniker of Earth Bear, which was chosen by Elder Wilson from a long list of student suggestions.
Wilson told students at the ceremony that the name represents the importance of learning to respect the Earth and everything on it.
The Spirit Bear Program started in 2008 by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, a national organization dedicated to promoting the rights of Indigenous kids across the country.
The idea behind the bear is to help teach students about reconciliation and the students are asked to teach the bear about the treaty area they live on.
“Our Spirit Bear teaches us that everyone has a voice,” said Shaylie-Rose Hunt, a Grade 6 student at Mills Haven Elementary. “He’s taught us about the First Nations peoples and that all people are important.”
Mills Haven qualified to get their own spirit bear after showing their commitment to Indigenous education and participating in a number of events, such as Orange Shirt Day, Project of Heart, Have a Heart Day, and Secret Path Week.
The school also committed to learning more about the Treaty 6 area through lessons and teachings from Elder Wilson in the future.
“Spirit Bear’s visit to the school represents on ongoing pledge by Mills Haven to learn more about reconciliation and our Treaty 6 area,” explained Sarah Choo, Grade 6 teacher and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Lead at Mills Haven Elementary. “Now that our Spirit Bear has been working with students for three months as a sidekick to Elder Wilson, we felt he was ready to get his name.”
Earth Bear, the Spirit Bear, has now officially become a full part of the Mills Haven Elementary family and will be their “reconciliation ambearristers.”
After Earth Bear was given his official name, Elder Wilson and the students honoured the Indigenous peoples of the west coast, which is where the idea for Spirit Bears originated, by performing a drumming ceremony to welcome Earth Bear to the school.
Now that the ceremony is done and Earth Bear is in his home, Mills Haven must send a new Spirit Bear to another school in the country as a way to ensure the program grows and the teachings of Spirit Bear spreads.
Mills Haven staff also launched a Twitter account for Earth Bear, which you can find by searching @BearMHV, which will keep parents, residents, other schools and the First Nations Caring Society informed on what the little cub is up to.