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

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

A Northern Health vaccination clinic is set for the Wells Community Hall on Tuesday, April 20. (Photo submitted)
COVID-19 vaccination clinic coming to Wells

Vaccine to be available for anyone 18+

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. sees 873 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, decline continues

Hospitalizations up to 377, two more deaths for 1,515 total

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

Most Read