Within a population of 1,900 or more students at Fredericton High School, there are approximately 40 students from First Nations communities.
On May 28, an open house took place as part of a social action project organized by students to create greater awareness and appreciation for Indigenous language and culture within the school community.
"The main point of the project is to bring awareness to Indigenous people and their culture especially within a system they weren't even meant to be in," said Amber Solomon, a Grade 12 student from Kingslear First Nation. "Our school works on being inclusive, but I think we can always do more."
Teacher Shana Saunders said the project was developed as part of a social studies class on world issues where five social action groups were formed.
In this case, five Grade 12 students, Colby Marin, Amber Solomon, Grace Tarrant, Kaitlin Scott, and Logan Rumbolt, led their project and reached out to the Kingsclear First Nation community to organize and offer an in-depth look at Indigenous culture to inform and help promote diversity and inclusiveness. As a result, students and staff and members of the public were invited to a full afternoon of activities toward: "Our journey in Indigenizing FHS."
Elder Richard Paul opened the event with prayer in the Wolastoqey language and also performed a smudge ceremony and Honour Song so "you can learn about our culture, who we are, and where we come from," Paul told guests.
Hayley Polchies drummed and sang the Strong Woman Song for a group of young dancers dressed in First Nations attire. More songs and music came from Justice Gruben. The open house also featured displays on Indigenous history, handmade wooden bowls, baskets, arrowheads, jewellery, loom bracelets, medicine bags, dream catchers, jiggle dresses, artwork by Cyril Sacobie and snacks by the Allagash Lunchbox.
For a time, FHS had the distinction of having the largest student body of any high school in the Commonwealth Nations. In 1999, a second high school, Leo Hayes High School, was constructed on the north side of the city to further accommodate the number of students. Several students from St. Mary's First Nation are currently enrolled at Leo Hayes High.
Shown in the photos below are (1) Attending the open house on Indigenous culture at FHS were Kingslcear First Nation residents (left ro right) Rhonda Solomon, Amber Solomon, Samuel Francis and Mircea Francis; (2) Alara Solomon from Kingsclear First Nation with her Heritage Fair display on the First Peoples.