Written by: Kayli McClelland, Creative Media Specialist, Ever Active Schools


Although we had some big changes this time around, we still had a successful two days of learning, sharing and celebrating. More than 30 school teams from across Alberta representing Treaties 6, 7 and 8 were all present at Winsport in Calgary!

The Summit opened with a blessing from Elder Helmer Twoyoungmen. Then, Evans Yellow Old Woman took the stage for his inspiring keynote presentation on “REZiliency”.

Hailing from Siksika Nation, Evans is a two-spirited Blackfoot man. He told his story of trauma and resiliency to the students and community members in the room. He explained how he grew up with family members who had been part of residential schools and how they never talked about it, but instead coped in unhealthy ways – the only ways they knew how.

In 2008, Evans heard of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee and had the chance to speak with residential school survivors like his family members and learn what they had been through.

“There was the answer I’d been looking for my entire life: trauma.”

Evans closed his presentation with some words of advice on resiliency for the students in the room.

“The very fact that you are here today is a miracle, because they fought so hard to make sure you would not be.

“You are a force to be reckoned with. Never forget that.”

With these powerful words on their minds, our Indigenous school teams moved into concurrent sessions. Some learned about traditional hoop dancing; some about outdoor traditional games; some about social and emotional learning; and so much more.

After lunch, teams were invited to share posters they had created to showcase the cool things their school communities are doing to promote health, wellness and resiliency. A networking parade ensued: students engaged in rich discussion with other communities and left with new ideas to bring back to their own schools.

Everyone’s favourite part of the Summit came next: the wellness break! Students were invited to enjoy the indoor luge, skating, swimming, or a movie.

After this active break, teams returned to Winsport for an open mic night in which students could sign up to share their talent whether visual, spoken word, or song. Led by MC Dwight Farahat – a freestyle rap artist from Calgary – an inspiring group of Indigenous youth braved the stage to share their talents with their peers, including traditional dances, a Michael Jackson tribute dance, singing, and break dancing. Art supplies were available for those students whose talents lay in visual mediums.

School teams returned the following day for more concurrent sessions centred around the arts, physical activity, student leadership, and lessons from Elders and Knowledge Keepers. Students had the opportunity to hear from a talented local Indigenous sports photographer, participate in outdoor traditional games, and be empowered through cultural activities.

The Summit finished off with a presentation from keynote speaker Corey Gray: an Indigenous black hole scientist from the Siksika Nation of Alberta. Corey is a member of the team whose founders were awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2017 for the discovery of gravitational waves. He enlisted the help of his mother, Sharon Yellowfly, to translate all of the press releases into the Blackfoot language – likely the first time this has ever happened.

He was incredibly enthusiastic about speaking to the youth in the room, telling them that the world needs more Indigenous scientists. He shared his own tools for resilience, including finding a passion (his own being science) and becoming a well-rounded person. Corey shared his own enjoyments in life, such as hiking, dancing powwow, and playing basketball.

“I’m Indigenous every day,” Corey explained. “My culture is always with me.”

The Resiliency Summit is an annual event held by Ever Active Schools with the goal of sharing activities and celebrating stories and practices around health, wellness, and resilience with students, community members, and educators.

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