Reclaiming language and culture is reclaiming the spirit of First Nations.
Kelly Ironstand, nursery and kindergarten teacher, strongly believes in this maxim.
A visit to her classroom at the Chief Clifford Lynxleg Anishinabe School, in the Tootinaowaziibeeng First Nation, reveals various aspects of First Nations language and culture.
From her hand made rabbit traps, life-size teepee and furniture, to her collection of animal bones used for hunting, Kelly’s students are learning the traditional way of life; and they love it.
Even at this age level, the students are taught how to make animal traps so that they can develop an appreciation and respect for the land, in keeping with First Nations practices. You might even find them making bannock and rabbit stew for lunch, on any given day.
“The children need to get a good grasp of their culture at this level, because they need to know who they are,” says Ironstand.
As someone who attended residential school as a child, she understands the personal conflicts that many First Nations people deal with when they lose that connection to their culture.
“I don’t want them to feel like how I did as an adult,” she explains. “I don’t want them to feel lost. I want them to know who they are and where they came from.”
Ironstand also believes in developing strong relationships within the community. Because of the busy schedules of some parents, it’s sometimes difficult for them to attend meetings at the school. On Report Card day, Ironstand gives parents the option of scheduling home visits to discuss their children’s progress.
She appreciates the the services offered by Early Learning facilitators at the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC) especially opportunities for professional development like the recently concluded Early Learning conference.
Kelly Ironstand is just one of many amazing teachers helping students to develop a First Nations identity. MFNERC is pleased to be working along with these educators.
Learn more about Kelly Ironstand in this video.