By Jeremy Harpe of CFWE-FM
It’s a program that was about a decade in the making, after a group of people got together in Janvier, Alta. with some folks from the oil field. They asked ‘What can we do for the community?’
And the answer to that question was that people in Janvier wanted to create a program for the youth to help foster them to walk in both the traditional Indigenous world and the world of technology.
The goal was to infuse cultural activities into the community and so became the Traditional Indigenous Skills program as part of the Experiential Learning Initiative for grades 4 and 5.
“But they wanted it to be authentic. They wanted it to basically represent what they really used to do growing up in the bush with the Elders,” said Rosiland Best, ELI coordinator at Father R. Perrin school.
The program has morphed into a one-week program each month at the school where a cultural activity is held with each class visiting the activity for one day as part of that week of culture.
“Some of the things that we’ve done is moose-hide drum making, basket weaving; there has been some beading classes. Recently we’ve had a duck-plucking week,” said Best.
And there was a medicine walk, where students go out with an Elder and learn to make offerings to Mother Nature, and how to identify traditional medicines in the bush.
“The kids really look forward to it. They’re always asking ‘What are we doing this month? What camp are we having?’”
Best said that the kids “buy-in’ to their classes more and show more interested whenever the teachers can relate back to traditional knowledge.
The Traditional Indigenous Skills program is great “because it’s not just dependent on the school. It’s not the teachers saying ‘OK, here’s what’s traditional for you. It’s a whole community that works together to provide these learning experiences.