Kamloops school staff threat to cut Indigenous student's braid is more serious than it sounds | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops school staff threat to cut Indigenous student's braid is more serious than it sounds

Image Credit: School District 73
September 30, 2021 - 7:00 AM

A grade 10 Indigenous student at South Kamloops Secondary is waiting for an apology from a staff member who threatened to cut his braided hair.

The student, Kash Fraser, is from Tk'emlups te Secwepemc. His mother describes Fraser as being very tied to his culture and his long braided hair past his waist represents that.

Fraser said on the second day of school, he was creating a reminder in his phone to do an assignment.

A Certified Education Assistant then said she would cut some of his hair if Fraser didn't finish the assignment, he told iNFOnews.ca.

Fraser's grandmother was the first person he told when he got home. She attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School herself, where Indigenous students commonly had their braids cut upon arrival.

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"She is a survivor and she's been through this. So when my son came home and told my mom, she was very very hurt," Corrina Fraser, Kash's mother, said to iNFOnews.ca. "This is crazy. I can't believe we're still living in a world like this."

Corrina is waiting for more answers from School District 73 regarding what is happening with the Certified Education Assistant.

"I would like students to be safe in other schools. Who's to say she's not going to pick on another native boy," Corrina said. "I think some accountability needs to be held up on her end."

However, she was assured that the staff member would not be working at that school anymore. She asked for more information, but, citing privacy concerns, the school district would not tell her more.

"They told me there were things in the investigation they could not disclose to me," she said. "They kept apologizing over and over again. My son never got an apology from her or anybody."

While a teacher would be disciplined by the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation, a staff member is only beholden to the school district.

School District 73 superintendent Dr. Rhonda Nixon would not comment to iNFOnews.ca about any details of the threat.

She did, however, add that anti-racism and Truth and Reconciliation are extremely important for the district to teach both staff and students. There is also ongoing mandatory cultural sensitivity training for staff throughout the school district.

"This isn't small to us. This would be one of the major pillars and priorities in the jurisdiction," Dr. Nixon said.

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To Kash and his family, the braid is not just hair. It is a symbol of their Secwepemc culture, their history and traditional way of life.

"Braids are important to us because that holds our spirit," Corrina said. "It represents your power and it's braided to keep all of our spirituality and our culture in that braid."

For Kash, the cultural significance of the braid is made stronger when he thinks about the young children who were forced to attend Indian residential schools.

In the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the chapter "Survivors Speak," published in 2015, says in the preface, "The assault on Aboriginal identity usually began the moment the child took the first step across the school’s threshold."

This started with cutting braided hair, which usually carried spiritual significance, then was followed by uniforms and exchanging Indigenous names for Euro-Canadian names, according to the commission report.

Kash said he was both angry and disappointed through the day when the staff member made the threat to him. He's less angry now, but he said he is still waiting for an apology.

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— This story was updated at 8:43 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021 to include the correct photo of the school.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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