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The power of song

Collaboration unifies students across Elk Island Public Schools

December 11, 2018 Jen Janzen, ATA News Staff

When a group of music teachers collaborated with Indigenous Elder Wilson Bearhead to create a song to unify the teachers and students of Elk Island Public Schools, inspiration was easy to come by — they just looked around.

The song, called “A Place Like This,” is set to become a regular feature of music classes, band practices and celebrations throughout the division. Written in a mixture of Nakota and English, the ­lyrics acknowledge the land and the waterways of the area as they encourage every person in the land to treat each other with love and respect. The group’s vision was that students across the division and Treaty 6 territory, no matter their age or background, will be united by a common identity, celebrating the fact that, as the song says, “nowhere in the world has a place like this.”

The project began last year when Bearhead, who regularly works with the school division to guide it in its work toward reconciliation, mentioned that a song could link Elk Island’s schools, providing them with a common identity. Inspired by his words, music teachers from different schools explored ways to turn Bearhead’s thought into a reality. Three writing sessions and countless emails produced a collaboration that celebrated Treaty 6 territory and all who live within the region.

The division will use the song to create lessons for students at all grade levels, said Courtney Richard, a music teacher at Westboro Elementary School, who was involved in the project

“As music specialists, I believe we have a unique role in our schools,” Richard said. “Many of us teach the entire school population, so when we incorporate Indigenous content into our music classrooms, we create learning opportunities for all students.”

Already, music teachers from outside the division are asking if they too can use the song in their classrooms. The answer, says Richard, is a clear yes.

“This song is about coming together to promote unity and kindness amongst all people. We all come from different heritages, we have lived different experiences, we have different beliefs and varying viewpoints, but what we all have in common is that we live together in Treaty 6 territory,” she said.

The song is expected to be available in January 2019 and will come with an accompanying lesson plan developed by Elk Island music teachers. The division will also translate the melody into a band arrangement for junior and senior high students and create a French and Nakota version for francophone schools. ❚

A Place Like This

Verses 1, 2 and 3 are sung in Nakota. The words are written how they sound as this portion of the song was created orally.

Verse 1
Gui chi bah me, you hah be chin (Love each other.)

Verse 2
Bah ay ee, hah me chin (Be there for each other.)

Verse 3
Cha day wash tay ingo hah be chin (Have a kind heart.)

Verse 4
Nowhere in the world has a place like this. (Each verse is sung four times.)

Swiftly the river flows through this land.
Rich black dirt I feel in my hand.
Our heart, our home, it’s where we dwell.
We all stand together, a story we tell.


"This song is about coming together to promote unity and kindness amongst all people."

— Courtney Richard, a music teacher at Westboro Elementary School

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