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Cobble Hill Elementary celebrating First Nations culture

Cobble Hill Elementary grade 5 students Kayla Fortin and Taysha McCuaig-Jones display a button blanket on Thursday, Feb. 28. - Andrew Leong
Cobble Hill Elementary grade 5 students Kayla Fortin and Taysha McCuaig-Jones display a button blanket on Thursday, Feb. 28.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

Cobble Hill Elementary School has immersed itself in Aboriginal culture since January.

The school embraced a project called Hand in Hand With Our Elders, with students learning all about the importance of knitting and wool to the Cowichan people.

“We have investigated the history of wool and knitting from pre-contact with Europeans to the development of knitting within the Cowichan community and the advancement of technology,’’ noted Cobble Hill Elementary School principal Karen Petersen in a press release.

“We have looked at how originally weaving, then knitting was part of the daily lives of the Cowichan people to how it became part of their economy and contributed as a way of life for many. The world-famous Cowichan sweater has been the crux of the project.’’

The project culminated Thursday with a special celebration day of Aboriginal Culture and Heritage for students and guests.

Khowhemun Elementary School dancers and honoured guests Mary Sam, Cowichan Elder Knitters and Arbutus Ridge volunteers were part of the opening ceremony.

Ten Cowichan knitterscame to the school to work with students in Grades 3 to 5 to create a patchwork wool quilt and on a button blanket for students in kindergarten through Grade 2.

The project at the school has been multi-faceted, Petersen added.

“It has been cross-generational, cross-cultural and cross-curricular. We’ve had many volunteers from the community come regularly to teach students knitting.’’

Guests have included artisan knitters John George, Jennifer George and Erica Rice, who put on a full day of presentations about authentic Cowichan sweaters, artifacts, spinning wheels and spindle whorls.

Kim Recalma-Clutesi, a First Nations academic and button blanket expert from Qualicum, did a full-day presentation. Paul O’Brian of Victoria committed to work on a song about the project with the children and wool artist and parent Kristen LeClair spent a day sharing her expertise.

“The response from students, staff and the community has been overwhelmingly positive,’’ Petersen raved.

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