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Ben Calf Robe POW WOW

A dream for a future “full of hope” for our Indigenous peoples

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Sr Mary Clare was hired by the Catholic Schools Edmonton to work one-on-one with Indigenous children.

Saturday, May 7, 2016 the Commonwealth Field in Edmonton was ablaze in colour; drums were beating to the heartbeat of Mother Earth; excitement was palpable. The occasion? The 35th annual Ben Calf Robe POW WOW.

Ben Calf Robe is a Catholic School in Edmonton, named after an Indigenous man who had a dream for a future “full of hope” for our Indigenous peoples, especially children. He recognized that 1000’s of our Indigenous children would never succeed in school, and would never raise children who were proud of their Indigenous heritage and culture unless they experienced something totally different. Why? They carry in their hearts, their whole being, the effects of the Residential School trauma.

Dream? To have a school where Indigenous children could:

  • 1) learn their Cree language;
  • 2) discover from Elders the traditional teachings that are passed on from one generation to the next;
  • 3) be immersed in Indigenous culture, drumming, dance, art and
  • 4) perhaps most importantly be actively engaged in healthy learning with their peers, thus lessening the number of school drop-outs, reducing the number who end up homeless and living on the streets, addicted to drugs and alcohol.

The 35th POW WOW was a celebration of great magnitude, attended by chiefs from all of Alberta, members of government, the superintendent of Catholic schools, principals and teachers from six Catholic schools that incorporate into their curriculum cultural teachings, Cree language classes et cetera.

On February 8, 2016 I was hired by Edmonton Catholic Schools to work one-on-one with Indigenous children who are struggling in school and/or at home. Their strength and fragility are a blessing for me. These children, despite all their suffering, have a delightful sense of humour, and a thirst to learn, to grow, to become. I was invited to the POW WOW because of working with these little ones and I am deeply grateful to have been immersed in such a life-giving, joyous experience. These pictures provide a snapshot of how proud these children are of their Indigenous heritage. My prayer is that the dream of Ben Calf Robe and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will slowly, but surely, transform our society as our Indigenous peoples learn to stand tall, and we as Non-Indigenous peoples open ourselves to the gift of their culture.

Sr. Mary Clare, u.j

You can see the video (5’32)