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Semiahmoo Secondary students document school’s history with Semiahmoo First Nation in short film

Grade-12 students of the school wanted to learn about their school’s history with SFN
Semiahmoo Secondary school (File photo)

The reconciliation process between Semiahmoo Secondary and the Semiahmoo First Nation has been explored by a group of Grade 12 students from the school in the form of a documentary.

Mehak Dhaliwal, Dasnoor Kaur, Jasmine Mangat and Simrit Mangat collaborated together on the documentary called Truth and Reconciliation: A Tribute to the Semiahmoo First Nations as part of their senior year project. In the duration of the short film posted to YouTube, the girls interviewed SFN Chief Harley Chappell and several faculty members of Semiahmoo Secondary and the Surrey school district.

“The idea came about when we began learning about the wrongdoings that Semiahmoo Secondary had done with the Semiahmoo First Nation during the forming of the school,” Simrit told Peace Arch News.

Learning about Indigenous peoples’ history of this land has become more common in schools, but learning about Semiahmoo Secondary’s own history with the SFN is still a newer concept, the students said.

“One of the things our history teacher mentioned which actually really resonated (with us) was ‘When we are teaching students about Indigenous cultures and the history of Indigenous people in Canada, we tend to focus a lot on residential schools, which is really important but often times, we tend to neglect other problems,’” Dhaliwal recalled.

Semiahmoo Secondary did not get permission from the SFN for its name. In addition, the school’s team-name for school sports was Totems, even though totem poles are not traditionally a part of SFN’s culture. After conversations with the Semiahma people, the school recognized that their mascot was a misrepresentation of the SFN and changed the name to Thunderbirds last year.

RELATED: Semiahmoo Secondary changes team name from Totems to Thunderbirds

Learning this and more became part of the students experiences around the same time, Jasmine told PAN.

“What we realized was that there were a lot of people who didn’t know why these changes were happening or what they signified so I think it sparked our interest to dive into that and spread awareness and also learn for ourselves as to why these things were happening and what they meant,” Kaur said.

Making the documentary served as a learning opportunity for the four students through having conversations with members of the school, but especially, with Chappell.

“This was actually our first time getting to meet the Chief… that was a really good experience to be able to interview him. Personally for me, I don’t think I knew a lot about their culture or difficulties they’ve faced and their issues,” Jasmine said.

Now that the documentary is complete, the group distributed their project to teachers throughout the school and the district to show to their classes.

“For reconciliation to happen, it’s important to listen to stories and make sure they’re still alive because for so long, Canada’s been trying to hide away the dark past,” Jasmine said.


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Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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