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

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)

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

Just Posted

Kitselas First Nation received a round of COVID-19 vaccine shots. (Kitselas First Nation image)
Kitselas receives COVID-19 vaccine

Delivery of vaccine was expedited after cluster of cases in community

Northern Health has issued COVID-19 exposure notices for Uplands Elementary School and Centennial Christian School in Terrace. (COVID-19/ CDC Image)
Two more COVID-19 exposure notices issued for schools in Terrace

Exposures took place at Uplands Elementary School and Centennial Christian School

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read