NOVEMBER 23, 2022 -- The beginning of the new school year came very fast, and planning for a new land-based learning experience for students was exceptional. It is hard work to ensure students learn and achieve curriculum outcomes and indicators while also infusing the experience with Indigenous content.
The students at Albert Community School had the same experiences that staff had on their Professional Development (PD) day. Students were able to help finish raising a tipi, learn Indigenous games, smudge, make their own bannock over an open fire, walk for Wenjack, and pick rosehip, wolf willow and sage.
The morning started off with students helping to put up a tipi alongside Knowledge Keeper Melissa Worme, who accompanied the group for the day. The tipi was used as a place for groups to sit, visit and listen to Melissa tell stories with her hand drum.
Students were pre-taught in class how to lay tobacco and pick the rosehip, wolf willow and sage. Students were also given a bit of artificial sinew to tie up their small bundle of sage. As students moved through the stations, they experienced different types of Indigenous knowledge.
The station led by Indigenous Advocate Natalie Agecoutay-Sweet had many activities happening around the fire. When students came to the station, they started with a smudge. As a group, the students talked about who smudged at home with relatives and extended family. Students also expressed why their families did not smudge. This was all very interesting and as students shared, mutual acceptance occurred. The discussion of emotional, mental, physical and spiritual balance came to the forefront. The students who felt confident enough to explain how they smudge at home also said that smudging was personal to each individual and family. There was an agreement in one group that there was no wrong way to smudge. Through further discussion, it was evident that each family had similarities how they smudge.
Natalie was also in charge of the station where students made their rosehip tea. Interestingly enough, if students did not have enough to make a cup, then others shared their rosehips. There were also a few students in each group who picked enough rosehips to take home to make a pot of tea. The students found it fascinating to pick apart the rosehips and put them in the coffee filter. The students sat and watched the water change colours. You could see the excitement rise as the colour of the water started to intensify. The students did not even ask to add sugar. Most of the students enjoyed the tea, with many trying to relate the flavour to something identifiable within their realm of flavour experience. There was only one student who, after all the teaching on the medicinal uses of rosehip and the discussion that it can be purchased in stores, shouted out, “Are you sure this is safe to drink!?”
During the lunch hour, students had the opportunity to mix water in a snack bag that contained all the ingredients for bannock. Students then mixed it all together and tried to put it on a stick before attempting to cook the bannock on the open fire, hoping the glob of flour would not fall in.
The last activity was to walk a section of the field in honour and memory of Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack. The walk was to raise awareness about those who attended residential schools and to literally take steps forward to learn the true history of Canada and the relationship of the First People of this country.
The expectation with these Indigenous land-based trips is that students will start to see the value in themselves, their culture and their Indigenous world view. Through these experiences, it is hoped that our future leaders will emerge with the strength, confidence and courage to bring all Indigenous Nations together, as well as the Nation known as Canada.