North Okanagan students sing Blackbird in Mi'kmaw to mark National Day of Truth and Reconciliation
Kids from Grades 4-7 in Coldstream, B.C., learned the song from Emma Stevens' 2019 cover
More than 70 students in Coldstream, B.C., sang a version of Blackbird by the Beatles in the Mi'kmaw language to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday.
The performance was choreographed by teacher Melissa Jacobs, who taught the song to students from Grades 4-7 at Kidston Elementary School using Emma Stevens' cover version.
Stevens, a teenager from Eskasoni, N.S., had gone viral with her Mi'kmaw rendition of Blackbird in 2019.
Jacobs says the kids listened to her version "over and over" in preparation for their performance, and they found the song accessible. They learned the song in just over two weeks.
"It created a beautiful, beautiful sound in the end. I'm really proud of all those kids for learning that version of Blackbird," she said. "[I] also used it as a time to help my students to, maybe, learn a different language or to share a different culture."
The performance marked an important moment for the schoolchildren on the occasion of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Students also created art and were taught age-appropriate education about the importance of the day.
Jacobs says it was critical for schools to play a role in making sure Indigenous languages don't get lost.
"We were talking about how we can integrate languages, including the Okanagan language, into our curriculum," she said.
"Even just like our bulletin boards. Just giving back the language and culture that was taken away and try to preserve it."
Jacobs completed the video in one day, recording the children on Sept. 29 and editing it that same day. Her father, who is nearly 80 years old, played the guitar on the track.
"Today we honour and remember the Indigenous children who were taken from their homes and communities," the first slide of the video reads. The end of the video also includes art created by the schoolchildren.
Jacobs said that if she had longer to prepare, she would have brought in an Indigenous elder and helped teach the kids any song in their language.
"Just recognizing the territory that we teach and learn and play in ... those kinds of things are so important, and I hope every teacher will do it."