Community Papers

Getting to know each other in Nelson

Nelson's Amelia Martzke and the Chief Julius School exchange student who stayed in her home Dannike Peterson-Snowshoe.
— image credit: photo submitted

I am a Grade 9 student at L.V. Rogers Secondary School, one of 16 lucky students involved in the life changing experience that we are calling the North/South exchange. Last month we hosted 16 students from Chief Julius School in Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories.

They arrived on February 10 at LVR. Our exchange group was there to prepare for our first night with the northern students. We planned to all sleep at the school so we could get to know each other before having them stay in our homes.  We were told the bus was to arrive around 5:30 p.m. and just as predicted, we received a call shortly after that time telling us that the bus had entered Nelson.

Similar to a group of uncontrollable preschoolers, we scampered outside, excitedly awaiting the students’ arrival. Every car engine sounded like a bus engine, each streetlamp resembled a bus’s headlights.

Finally the real bus arrived. We crowded around the entrance, desperate to meet our guests. Slowly the bus doors opened and out stepped two students. We watched as they glanced around, took one look at our group, and climbed back onto the bus. With some reassurance from their teachers, the group descended to meet us.

Throughout our preparation for this exchange we had been reminded of the cultural differences between the two communities. The Gwich’in people are relatively soft spoken and shy, but also kind. Leaving their small community and staying in a home with strangers was an enormous act of bravery on their part.

Over the course of the week we witnessed an immense change in the Chief Julius students’ confidence. In only a short time both groups were opening up to each other, conversing and laughing together. It was these changes that were so vital in the development of our relationships.

During their time here, we participated in many activities in and around the city of Nelson. Some of these activities included a day at the Salmo Ski Hill, a tour of Selkirk College and its aboriginal gathering place, and a day in Creston, meeting with some of the Ktunaxa people.

As if we didn’t already have a busy week, the group also added some spontaneous events. We took them to Ainsworth Hot Springs and had a bonfire on their final night. These activities brought our two groups together to form strong bonds and develop relationships.

With the help of the Nelson and District Credit Union, on our final night with the students we hosted a banquet to celebrate our time together. Everybody was gathered around as we told stories from the past week. This also included a musical performance from two students of Fort McPherson. In front of nearly 100 people they played their music, showing us that they felt completely comfortable around us. We were no longer strangers. We had all changed; from a timid beginning to an outgoing ending.

Our journey to Fort McPherson in April can’t come soon enough!


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