Adam, 5, at his school in Edmonton. (Submitted)

‘It hurts’: Indigenous Alberta boy, 5, comes home with braid undone

Trouble at school leads to conversation on reconciliation, outpouring of support

The first few months of school with a new class and new teacher can be hard for any child, but for one Cree family with four boys who wear their long hair in braids to honour their heritage, unwanted attention and questions are inevitable.

Azure, their mother, said they are fairly used to this at the start of a school year, and her boys are resilient. Black Press Media has honoured the family’s request to not publish their last name to protect their identity.

She became more than a little concerned, however, when her five-year-old, Adam, came home from school in south Edmonton with his hair undone – for the second time that year. He was upset and crying.

Azure and three of the four boys, including Adam, are members of Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis.

She braids her son’s hair tightly each morning. The elastics are tight and shouldn’t come out on their own. That day was picture day at school, so she’d even added extra hairspray.

Adam said the elastic had been pulled out by another child at school.

“In the moment, when it happens … you’re hurt, you’re frustrated,” said Azure. Children shouldn’t think it’s okay to touch his hair, she added, never mind pulling out his braid.

She made an eloquent post to a community Facebook page in Ponoka about how kids call her son a girl and pull out his braids. But he is “a boy with a braid” and he is proud of them, she said.

“There is no reason why he should come home ashamed of his hair; but today he did. It hurts,” she wrote. “Every day we will push through this and every day he will walk through those doors at school with pride because he is a boy with a braid.”

READ MORE: What does ‘We are all treaty people’ mean, and who speaks for Indigenous students on campus?

She said she spoke out not to point fingers, but to start a discussion. She has since received dozens of messages, from people as close as neighbouring communities and as and far as Oklahoma, Kansas and Hawaii, who want to share their own painful experiences and thank her for posting.

“It’s powerful, very powerful.”

One story was particularly difficult to hear, she said. A young adult in their 20s involved in sports asked their mother to cut their hair, deciding they couldn’t take the taunting any longer.

“That was a really tough story to hear. I can’t imagine having to do that.”

Another reason her boys keep their hair long is to honour what she and her mother endured at residential schools.

She said it isn’t about the past, though.

“We want to renew relationships with everyone and move forward,” she said. “This incident – it is starting a conversation. That is reconciliation for us.”

ALSO READ: Zero-tolerance policies against bullying not working, experts say

School officials were quick to address the issue when she contacted them, she added.

In a statement to Black Press Media, the Edmonton Public School Board said staff want to ensure schools are safe places where students are valued and treated with respect.

“Schools are expected to provide opportunities for all students to become knowledgeable about Indigenous values and culture and to demonstrate respect and recognition of First Nations, Métis and Inuit values and cultures,” the statement said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Adam’s hair, when loose, falls past his waist. (Submitted)

Just Posted

UPDATE: Chilliwack youth coach acquitted of sexual touching of a minor

BC Supreme Court justice finds reasonable doubt despite not believing the accused

Motorists were ‘driving like their own Indy 500’ before fatal Abbotsford crash, court hears

Family member declares defence request for 90-day jail sentence a ‘joke’

World champion SFU Pipe Band comes to Chilliwack

SFU Pipe Band will put on a celebration of culture, music and heritage at Chilliwack Cultural Centre

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Feb. 24 to March 1

Chilliwack biologist to speak on climate change at Green Party AGM

Dr. Carin Bondar is an author, adjunct professor and an explorer who has discovered new species

VIDEO: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%

Chief coroner says figures were down about a third in the province’s fourth year of the opioid crisis

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

B.C. takes over another Retirement Concepts senior care home

Summerland facility latest to have administrator appointed

Man pleads guilty to stabbing woman, off-duty cop outside North Delta elementary school

The suspect, whose name is under a publication ban, faced 10 charges in relation to this incident

RCMP pull office from Wet’suwet’en territory, but hereditary chiefs still want patrols to end

Chief says temporary closure of field office not enough as Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute drags on

Prescription opioids getting B.C. addicts off ‘poisoned’ street drugs

Minister Judy Darcy says Abbotsford pilot project working

Royals, Elvis, Captain Cook: Hundreds of wax figures find new life in B.C. man’s home

Former director of Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum still hopes to revive wax figure tourism

Teck CEO says Frontier withdrawal a result of tensions over climate, reconciliation

Don Lindsay speaks at mining conference, a day after announcing suspension of oilsands project

Okanagan man swims across Columbia River to evade Trail police

RCMP Cpl. Devon Reid says the incident began the evening of Thursday, Feb. 20

Most Read