Talking to my students is something that I look forward to each day that I come to school; there are always new stories, dreams, questions, ponderings and some hard discussions.
Each day is different, but being there and present for them is something that I take a huge amount of pride in.
Relationship-building and fostering are paramount; the ages of 12-18 is such a dynamic and ever-changing phase of life.
I work with the high school First Nations, Métis and Inuit students at my school and I teach a variety of subjects but most notably Indigenous Entrepreneurship and Indigenous Cultural Studies. The Indigenous Cultural Studies students learn through a hands-on approach, artistic expressions of First Nations and Métis throughout Treaty 8 territory. They explore firsthand, traditional art such as Beading, Moose Hair Tufting, Fish Scale Art, and Ribbon Shirt/Skirt making from local Knowledge Keepers and Elders.
There is always more to learn and appreciate, such as language, being on the land and stories of our ancestors. I asked my students what they wanted to learn and why. Their answers were heartening, some brought me to tears, but the overwhelming feeling I had was that this next generation is forging ahead with vitality, optimism, open hearts, and the willingness to learn the ways of their culture and ancestors.
For their privacy I have withheld their names and any identifying information; however, their resilience and love for their culture is nonetheless evident!
“I want to learn how to survive in the wilderness alone, and how to hunt for myself and get good drinking water.”
— Student G, 15 – Cree/Dene
“I want to learn how to jingle dance, this summer I will start after my regalia is completed. I was inspired by other dancers and it was beautiful, the drum moved me.”
— Student K, 16 – Cree
“I am currently learning how to make regalia, beadwork and learn my Cree language. This is important to learn and retain so it never gets taken away again.”
— Student M, 15 – Métis
“I want to learn my Cree language, I think it’s a good way to keep our culture alive.”
— Student R, 16 – Cree/Dene
“I want to learn about the past generations of my ancestors, it intrigues me because of the richness of the culture.”
— Student L, 16 – Cree
“I want to learn about medicines, my Nimosom is a medicine man. I want to keep it going, I have the motivation. It’s a beautiful culture, I want to learn the traditions, the dances, everything!”
— Student C, 14 – Cree/Dene/Blackfoot
“More of my language; it is starting to get lost. More youth need to learn and want to learn their own language.”
— Student M, 17- Cree/Dene
“I would like to learn the process of animal harvesting/skinning, and what to do after the hunt. How to use all of the animal for different purposes.”
— Student A, 17 – Qalipu
“I want to learn about Traditional Medicines, my grandpa knew a lot about the land, he was wise. It interests me and would be practical to know.”
— Student A, 14 – Dene
“I want to relearn my language, it sounds so cool! To honour my late granny and grandpa’s native language would make me happy. I used to speak Cree with them when I was younger.”
— Student Z, 16 – Cree
“I want to learn my language, it would be useful to speak and understand; so I can also pass it down to the next generation.”
— Student D, 15 – Cree