Chilliwack's McCammon elementary needs votes to win funding for a partnership that has forged ties between the school and its neighbours in the Skwah First Nation for 15 years.
The school is in the first round of an Aviva Insurance competition that could see it win between $50,000 and $100,000 if its proposal nets enough online votes.
The school would use the funds to expand a program that sees McCammon students visit Skwah every May for two days of canoe pulling.
The tradition started 15 years ago when Dean Williams, an avid First Nations paddler, offered to take his son's Grade 1 class for a day of paddling on Hope Slough on the reserve to celebrate his birthday.
A couple years later, Williams expanded the offer to include the entire school.
And after a decade and a half, he and his family still volunteer to put on the now three-day event year after year even though his son has long since left McCammon.
For him it's important that kids learn his people's traditions are alive and well just down the road
"It's good for them to understand who we are," he told the Times. "We're still here, we're still in the water, we still got our paddles, we still got our canoes, we're still carrying on with our culture."
Canoeing has brought the school and the First Nation closer together, according to longtime McCammon aboriginal education assistant Donna Babcock.
Williams and his brother Steve bring their paddles to a school assembly every spring, she said, and talk to students about First Nations traditions around canoeing.
The school in turn donates the medals for the 10-andunder division of annual canoe races hosted by Skwah, and there's a trophy with the names of past winners kept permanently in the school's trophy case. "It's a sharing of culture," McCammon principal Terry Bates said.
It's also a chance for First Nations kids to bask in the coolness of their traditions, according to Babcock.
"The non-First Nations kids, they think it's so cool that it really raises the self-image of the First Nations kids," she said. "There's everything positive about it. It really is a great bridge."
The school is vying to win part of the annual $1 million Aviva Community Fund to pay for a canoe shed, a proper dock by the landing area on the reserve and some new canoes, life vests and paddles.
Organizers envision the program expanding to other Chilliwack schools and the shed creating more space for the addition other cultural activities, like traditional canoe building, First Nations drumming, singing, carving, beading and cedar work.
McCammon has until Oct. 15 to win enough votes to move on to the second round of the Aviva competition.
? Voters can vote once a day until the deadline. To find out more about McCammon's proposal, visit www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf14069.
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