Students from The High School at VIU Pay Tribute to First Nations Soldiers

Violet Elliott of the Snuneymuxw First Nation (left) helps Catherine Maynard-Shrubshall, a student at The High School at VIU, weave a cedar rose. The roses will be used to form a wreath for VIU’s upcoming Remembrance Day ceremony.

November 8, 2016 - 11:15am

Grade 11 Social Studies pupils present VIU Remembrance Day ceremony

As Remembrance Day nears, a group of students from The High School at Vancouver Island University (VIU) are honouring those fallen in warfare and highlighting the contributions of First Nations soldiers.

On Monday, Nov.7, Violet Elliott of the Snuneymuxw First Nation was at The High School (THS), teaching Grade 11 Social Studies students how to weave cedar roses. Those roses were then used to form a wreath, which will be laid at VIU’s Remembrance Day ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 10 – an event that’s organized by the Grade 11 pupils and open to the public.

“I chose to use the cedar rose for our Remembrance Day ceremony to honour those who served, as cedar is a powerful symbol of strength and revitalization,” says THS instructor Natasha Kruse.

“We spiritually cleanse with cedar – it has a strong implication for healing and cleansing for my culture,” adds Elliott, who has woven cedar for about 20 years. “I think it’s an awesome gesture for the students to embrace somebody else’s culture in order to respect our veterans.”

The wreath will be laid in remembrance of Francis Pegahmagabow, one of the most highly decorated First Nations soldiers in Canadian history. The Grade 11 Social Studies class recently studied the First World War and First Nations history.

“Even though First Nations soldiers in the war were almost never promoted to higher ranks, Francis Pegahmagabow definitely changed the game and made a name for himself,” says Dweeja Mehta, a Grade 11 student at THS who hails from the United Arab Emirates. “Our incentive is to recognize that, and to help others recognize it as well.”

At the Remembrance Day ceremony, the Grade 11 students will address the audience, explain the meaning of the day, read poems and present a slideshow. The students are also making items such as crosses and medals that will be on display.

The ceremony will feature musical accompaniment on trumpet, violin and pipe, with two of the players hailing from VIU’s music program.

The aim is to remember those who gave their lives while serving their country. “They left their families behind, believing in a better future for Canada, and suffered and sacrificed themselves and everything they knew for this nation,” says Mehta. “Their endurance with the heavy and difficult conditions that they were forced to face must be recognized, and this is why this day is so important.”

VIU Remembrance Day ceremony – open to the public

Thursday, Nov. 10

10:30 am – 11:30 am                                                                     

Nanaimo campus – Building 200, Room 203



Communications and Public Engagement, Vancouver Island University

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