Sask. teen stands up for Indigenous heritage by wearing traditional clothes to school
Kisis Cappo says Indigenous legends were being made fun of in her brother’s class
A Saskatchewan teen is standing up for her Indigenous heritage with a pair of moccasins, a ribbon skirt and social media.
Kisis-Isquao Cappo, from the Muscowpetung First Nation, went to school Monday dressed in her full traditional outfit.
She did it to show her fellow students she is proud of her heritage, in the wake of an incident that happened at school.
"After what I heard about my brother, I thought, well OK this is my chance to do something and I can stand against racial injustices and it doesn't have to hurt anyone anymore. I can at least help someone," Cappo said.
Kisis and her younger brother Haydar-Ali Cappo both attend Greenall High School in Balgonie, Sask.
Last week, 14-year-old Haydar-Ali came home upset that classmates were making fun of Indigenous legends in class.
He said his history class was watching a movie about Canada's people on Friday. When a First Nations child in the film had to leave and go fast for a vision quest, he said his classmates laughed at the paintings on his face, and at some of the origin stories.
The experience left him with a bad feeling, but he stayed quiet.
"I didn't want to speak up because I was scared to say anything and I didn't know what to say at the moment," Haydar-Ali Cappo said.
So 16-year-old Kisis decided to take a stand for her brother.
She wore her traditional clothing to school, and has worn her ribbon skirt every day since. She also posted on social media, inviting other Saskatchewan teens to join her with the hashtag #wearingmyculture.
"I've seen all the other kinds of racism that went on in the school and I just wanted to make it a little bit better," she said.
Her original Facebook post was shared thousands of times, and dozens have since sent her pictures of themselves wearing their traditional clothing.
Kisis said she was also inspired to action by her father, Kamao Cappo, who recently spoke out about discrimination against Indigenous shoppers after an incident at Canadian Tire in Regina this summer.
"Hearing what happened to him made me really sad, so after that I was always thinking, well what can I do, what can I do?" she said.
Principal Jason Weitzel commended Kisis for raising awareness in such a respectful way.
He said racism exists in all Saskatchewan schools, and that the school will do more to make sure all students are comfortable there.
"We wouldn't be truthful if we thought that we didn't have instances where racism rears its ugly head in schools … We've asked our teachers to be extra vigilant and just work together to resolve issues for kids," Weitzel said.
Some community members have raised concerns over the school not having a dedicated Indigenous liaison.
But the Prairie Valley School Division said Greenall High School doesn't have a high enough Indigenous population for a full-time liaison worker, with just three per cent of students being of Indigenous heritage.
Instead, it shares a First Nations and Métis education co-ordinator and liaison worker that works with schools as needed.
Ben Grebinski, Prairie Valley's director of education, said the division recently developed a policy of zero tolerance when dealing with inappropriate behaviours surrounding racism and prejudice.
"Unfortunately sometimes circumstances surface that are less than desirable, so we try and respond as quickly as possible to the situation once we are briefed on the facts," Grebinski said.
Cappo said she hopes the school better educates students about what First Nations people go through.
"It has to be known that Canada is a great country. I know it is. But there has to be more done for First Nations," she said.