K’OMOKS FIRST NATION- Students from School District 71 had a chance to experience the Valley’s First Nation culture this afternoon.

More than 600 students came to K’ómoks First Nation in two separate sessions to visit the Big House, and watch a presentation from the Kumugwe Dancers during the annual Big House Experience, which is designed for students in Grade 4 who study First Nations history during Social Studies class.

The group showcased several dances from the K’ómoks First Nation to the students in what was described as a “mini-potlatch”, which also featured a brief appearance from Darth Vader and a dance off between the Full Moon and Half Moon dancers.

Students line up outside the Big House on May 17th, 2018. Photo by James Wood/98.9 The Goat/Vista Radio

A Grizzly Bear dancer performs in the Big House on May 17th, 2018. Photo by James Wood/98.9 The Goat/Vista Radio

Dancers perform at the Big House on May 17th, 2018. Photo by James Wood/98.9 The Goat/Vista Radio

Wolf Dancers perform in the Big House on May 17th, 2018. Photo by James Wood/98.9 The Goat/Vista Radio

A Half Moon dancer performs in the Big House on May 17th, 2018. Photo by James Wood/98.9 The Goat/Vista Radio

An Echo Dancer performs in the Big House on May 17th, 2018. Photo by James Wood/98.9 The Goat/Vista Radio

Both sessions were narrated by band member Andy Everson, who also is part of the dancers.

“I think it’s really important for kids, especially at that age, where they’re forming their ideas to interact with other members of the community, for them to come into the Big House and see positive role modeling from their own peers, people their own age, from the school district, dancing,” said Everson.

“I’ve had young adults come up to me, later on in life, that have gone through the Big House experience. They say it was the highlight of their entire school career. It still affects them, which is great.”

Everson believed having kids come through the Big House would help them experience the different cultures present in the Valley, and indicated that adults would benefit from the same experience.

“They drive past here, probably all their lives in many cases,” said Everson.

“There (are) adults that have never been in here before. I think a chance for them to come in here and experience a little slice of our culture gives a greater understanding cross-culturally.”

According to Lynn Swift, an Aboriginal curriculum support teacher for local elementary schools, teachers gave students two lessons prior to the Big House visit to prepare them for what they would see. The dancers took over once the students arrived.

When asked what she would say to the Valley as a whole about the event, Swift indicated that everyone could benefit from coming by.

“I think if they all had a chance to be part of this or understand a bit more, we’d know about the history of Aboriginal people in Canada,” said Swift.

“I think this is one of the small steps to get there.”