‘We’re sharing culture’: Whitehorse’s Elijah Smith School celebrates 25 years – North

A Whitehorse school celebrated its silver anniversary this week, as Elijah Smith Elementary marked its 25th year with its annual start-of-school feast and open house.

“The majority of our community, Kwanlin Dün First Nation, attends this school,” says Jesse Dawson, a councilor for the First Nation and member of the school council who has grandchildren and a great grandchild at Elijah Smith.

Everyone was welcome at the anniversary feast on Thursday – from students and parents of students to community members. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

According to Dawson, about 50 per cent of the students at the school are First Nations, a fact that former principal John Wright says was not lost on staff and administration.

John Wright was the principal of Elijah Smith from 1996 to 2012. He retired when he was 71, but says he could have stayed on for many years. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

“I think there was a concerted attempt right from the beginning to make sure this school reflected First Nations history and culture,” he said at the feast Thursday night.

But, it’s not just the culture, traditions, language and history that make the school special. It’s that anyone is welcome to participate in it, said Dawson. The other 50 per cent of the students at Elijah Smith, she said, “come from above us” — referring to the neighbourhood of Copper Ridge, which is located above the school.

“We’re sharing culture at this school,” said Dawson.  “And that’s really important because non-native people need to know what our culture is like, you know?”

‘It’s great to see our culture and traditions being reflected in our school’

The school is named after a Kwanlin Dün elder who started the Yukon Native Brotherhood — a group that took the document Together Today for our Children Tomorrow to Ottawa in 1973, kickstarting modern-day treaty negotiations in the territory.

Elijah Smith, who the school is named after, was a Kwanlin Dün elder who helped start the modern-day…

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