Awahsuk Aboriginal Head Start Preschool


Submitted by Vanessa Hickman, Coordinator of the Awahsuk Aboriginal Head Start program. Awahsuk Aboriginal Head Start Preschool, run out of Surrey BC, is honoured to share our pictures and stories with you. At Awahsuk we are pleased to have a high participation rate within our Aboriginal community in Surrey.

We have found a few different resources to be valuable to our program:

  • Seven Sacred Teachings Toolkit: The Seven Sacred Teachings Toolkit is a kit that contains puppets, posters, stickers, and stories to help the children gain knowledge through oral tradition. Each teaching honours one of the basic virtues inherent to becoming a full, healthy individual.
  • Created by Canada Heritage, Four Directions Teachings is a wonderful website with interactive teachings from the Cree, Blackfoot, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and M’ikmaq Nations. The Four Directions website is great when you work within a mixed nation program where your children come from all directions.
  • The Honouring Your Elders Book and Video is a useful tool that is helping the staff at Awahsuk to boost Elder participation and have a reference that can be used as our guidelines to proper protocol. We honour our Elders at Awahsuk by hosting events such as the Elders Tea, where the children have the chance to embrace the gifts of our Elders.


Our program at Awahsuk has been going through a transformation in the past few years and we have been changing the way we do our programming. We have decided that to better suit our cultural philosophy we will carry out a “Drum Ceremony” for our children instead of having a Christmas Party like we have done in previous years. The children were presented with their own drums by our Cultural Elder Fred John, who drums with our children every month. Elder Fred talked to the children about how to keep their drums in a sacred manner and what it means to receive one, as well as saying a prayer and giving the drums a “voice.” The families were all present and involved in the ceremony as witnesses to this huge responsibility their child was given. We will continue this in years to come.



During the Awahsuk Graduation Ceremony each child will be presented with hand-sewn regalias, and so “walking” in their new custom. By the end of the year, each child will have earned a Drum, Regalia and Ceremony Blanket through their hard work and achievements. Every sacred item we have is earned and we strive to educate our children in knowing that every goal reached did not go unnoticed, and that we honour them for their persistence, strength and courage to accomplish their every goal and dream. Our children are living out the vision we set before them, and we are doing what we can to give them the sacred understanding to carry their good medicines in their earned items with pride and respect.


For more information on the Awahsuk AHS program, please contact Vanessa at