As part of National Aboriginal Day activities last week, students at Jasper Elementary School took part in a variety of traditional First Nations games.
“That’s my job in the schools – to incorporate aboriginal culture into the schools – and this is the easiest and funnest way to do it,” said Candace Pambrun, a First Nations, Métis and Inuit facilitator with Grande Yellowhead Public School Division.
Pambrun taught a wide range of different games to students from Grade 1 to Grade 6, some indoors, some outdoors.
And while the games vary significantly – some involve running long distances, others involve testing one person’s strength against another – Pambrun said there is a common element to all of them.
“Every game, honestly, has something that creates strength somewhere,” she said.
With a group of Grade 1 students in the JES gymnasium, for example, Pambrun had the kids participate in an Inuit game called sling ball, in which the students had to lie flat on their backs with a ball between their feet, then throw their legs over their heads in order to launch the ball as far as possible.
After that, the kids took part in the walrus push, where they pair off, get down on all fours, place opposite shoulders against one another, and attempt to drive their opponent backwards.
One of the most popular games among the kids, however, was “run and scream.”
“Definitely an outside game,” Pambrun said. “Kids love it because run and scream are the two things they’re not allowed to do in school.”
This particular game was designed to help build lung capacity. Participants take a deep breath, start screaming, and run as far as they can until they can scream no more, dropping a marker at the point where they ran out of breath. The person who can make it the farthest wins.
“That one was played by the Plains Indians in huge fields,” Pambrun said. “Each game would be fitted to the environment.”
“The Inuit games are always harder,” she added. “They’re just tough people.”
Pambrun works between seven schools in Hinton and Jasper and said she always loves coming to the national park.
“Jasper’s really good for allowing me to come in and do things,” she said. “They’re really open to that. It’s fun.”
National Aboriginal Day was Thursday, June 21, but many of the festivities in Jasper took place on Saturday, June 23.