Red Bluff Lhtako Elementary students design mural depicting B.C. First Nations oral histories

Laura Volk’s grade 6/7 French immersion class smiles for a photo in front of their mural on the school’s pajama day. The mural will form the backdrop of their Christmas concert at Red Bluff Lhtako Elementary School. Heather Norman photos
The mural in the hall leading up to the gym.
Three languages – English, French and Carrier – are used on the mural.
The mural in the hall leading up to the gym.
The mural in the hall leading up to the gym.

The new mural at Red Bluff Lhtako Elementary School spans four panels, down a hall and into the gym. It forms the backboard for their upcoming Christmas concert, which is themed “Stories from Turtle Island.”

The students of Laura Volk’s grade 6/7 French immersion class have worked on the mural for approximately the last five weeks.

The mural, which tells the story of the Fraser River as it runs from the coast through to northern B.C., depicts the oral history of the Salmon People.

Over the last few weeks, the students in Volk’s class have been studying First Nations heritage and the oral traditions of First Nations people.

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As part of this unit they began to work on the mural, which is made out of paper. Students worked together in small groups to create the different sections of the river, along with the different trees, salmon, and other smaller pieces that bring it to life. It also includes the names of all the First Nations communities along the Fraser River, and the history of the salmon itself.

As a school with three languages, the mural also has writing in English, French and Carrier.

“It is truly amazing,” says librarian Teresa McCart, who helped the students with the art in the mural.

When the students finished painting the mural, it took a full day to put it up on the walls, as they had to assemble all the pieces — big and small — for the first time.

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When the class spoke with the Observer about the mural, they all agreed: none of them expected it to come together as well as it did. When asked if they were proud of the finished product, there was a resounding “yeah!” throughout the classroom.

Students also spoke about some of the important lessons they learned from studying the oral histories of the Salmon People: don’t take more than you need; make sure you give back; always be kind to the environment and give back what you take; and, like the Salmon People who used every piece of the salmon they fished, don’t be wasteful.

The students also talked about the lessons they learned while working together on the mural: they say they learned to incorporate everybody’s ideas, not just their own; no matter how different everything looks, it will all come together; don’t try to control anyone else’s work — just make sure you focus on own work; and make sure that each person gets an even share of the work.

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