This summer, over 90 children who participated in the Battle River Community Foundation and Battle River School Division’s Reading University literacy program had the opportunity to improve their reading skills through learning about Indigenous culture.

Reading University’s Indigenous Knowledge Building program introduced children in grades two and three to Indigenous culture and history through activities like teepee construction, visiting a replica of a historical Indigenous village at Fort Edmonton and learning about and creating medicine wheels with the guidance of Indigenous elders.

“For many of the students, this was their first exposure to a different aspect of Canada’s history that they hadn’t focused on yet in their social studies curriculum,” explains Diane Hutchinson, community relations advisor for the Battle River School Division. “A small portion [of the children in Reading University] are First Nations students. They were very proud to speak to their heritage, and it was a really positive way for them to feel part of their heritage and to be able to share what they knew about their culture.”

Reading University’s Indigenous Knowledge Building program was made possible, in part, by funding from the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th grant program, which provided the resources necessary to bring in Indigenous elders and purchase the materials for this learning opportunity.

“[The sesquicentennial] seems a very appropriate time—as we celebrate a milestone that is of relevance to one portion of our culture in our country—to also acknowledge there’s a lot more to the picture,” says Hutchinson. “We are all very aware and wanting to acknowledge and celebrate that although Canada’s 150th birthday is an important milestone date, it’s not the beginning.”