Imagine seeing the world in two different ways at the same time—one vision of the past and one of the future. The term “Two-Eyed Seeing” is often used in research, health, and teachings within First Nations. The idea is to understand the strengths within two worldviews—Western science and Indigenous knowledge—and then bring them together to better navigate the modern world, maintain a positive sense of self, and build a foundation based in culture.

Brenda Daniels has worked with the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (the Resource Centre) as the First Nation language program researcher/developer since February 2022. A big part of her job is to meet with Elders to hear their perspectives on the best way to learn and teach a First Nations language. With their knowledge and advice, Daniels develops a language program to produce conversational speakers. An inherited passion for learning and sharing knowledge helps Daniels carry on the ways of her ancestors. She loves working with First Nations languages and seeing the impact on students learning their history, culture, and mother tongue.

Seeing how language can impact students is amazing because our language is so beautiful … it’s a living spirit and a gift,” Daniels says. “Back in the day, traditions were shared through the language, and before colonialism, that was how the majority of First Nations people were taught…”

“…I think if we can bring the languages back, hopefully, make fluent speakers, we will build strong youth and strong children, because that’s who we are as Indigenous people.”

– Brenda Daniels

Learning and acknowledging First Nations ways of knowing is important to understanding how the two worldviews contrast and how they can work together, which can then give learners better tools for looking at their own lives. Students learn about the differences between the two worldviews by comparing certain elements. For example, some are taught that the land is a resource to benefit from, rather than a relation that can teach.

“Being First Nations and understanding these perspectives means acknowledging and learning your traditional belief system. This has always been here, but because of colonialism, it can easily get lost,” Daniels says. “Our Elders spoke of the mino-bimaadiziwin, or the good life. First Nations’ Oral Histories and traditions can contribute to making a good way of life for all of us. With First Nation philosophies already in their minds, our students also have to learn the Western perspective, and utilize both to maintain a balance in life.”

For Daniels, Two-Eyed Seeing allows First Nations to honor traditional ways and adapt to the ever-changing world. When traditions and teachings are shared, it enables students to contribute their ideas and expand the conversation. First Nations people have always been adaptable and, in the past, have selected certain Western ways of doing things to integrate into their culture and communities so they could build a good life using the economy of the day.

Daniels believes that teaching Indigenous ways of knowing and being in a First Nations language shares a deep message because there are teachings within the language. Although learning a language can have challenges, she has seen students learn phrases and words quickly when hearing the language regularly. She believes storytelling and songs are a great way to start teaching traditions, language, and introducing these worldviews.

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Richard Keeper learned how to use the stars as guides when he went out on the land to hunt and fish. Now, he teaches his star knowledge within First Nations schools using an inflatable planetarium. Keeper hopes the teachings will help First Nations students find their way back to their culture.

As a member of Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Keeper grew up on the land looking up to the sky for direction and knowledge. Now, working within the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (the Resource Centre), he facilitates a workshop called Cree Night Sky Stories. Keeper is honored to be learning more about different First Nations perspectives on constellations, and he is working with Resource Centre staff from other First Nations cultures to expand the star teachings available.

“It is wonderful speaking to the Elders. I was speaking to an Elder and he was telling me his stories that went with Pleiades, the constellation, and then he spoke about how he got lost once and used the stars to find his way home, and that led into a Creation Story,” Keeper says. “He’s a fisherman, and we spoke about moons and how they relate to the food he needs to catch—the white fish, the jack fish. And he wants to invite me back to the community because he has remembered more.”

Keeper thinks it is important to hand down such knowledge to today’s young First Nations people— to teach them that their people looked up to the sky and created a worldview that explained what they saw above.

“When we looked up at the stars at a young age, we may have often wondered how they got up there, and those questions always led to more questions. And it left us wondering about the creation of the world and how we all fit in it. Most youth have learned about space and all it entails through Western teachings in school, and it’s even carried on over to university and so on. But, there are some who may wonder, and even seek out, how Indigenous Peoples see the night skies,” Keeper says.

Keeper has travelled to three of the Resource Centre’s member First Nations since he started and has facilitated this workshop many times for First Nations youth. Keeper’s vision is to see more youth and students brought out to the land to listen to these stories and traditions while observing the night sky. Keeper’s workshops have received a huge amount of positive feedback from both students and schools.

“The kids can certainly be star-struck by the presentation. There are always a lot of oohs and aahs. We change the presentation based on the age of the students. We’ll use puppets for the younger ones, but when they get older, teenagers, we can use, say, the lessons of the moon to teach the deeper values of our Peoples. These teachings have been passed down through the generations for years and years,” Keeper says.

In the workshop, the stories of each constellation appear as visuals in the planetarium creating a better understanding of the star teachings. Through storytelling and songs, the students learn about First Nations stories and names for stars and constellations. Keeper says it is important that these views are valued the same as Western views on the night skies.

Indigenous stories of the stars, and even creation and human existence, are told by Indigenous Peoples all over the world, and Keeper believes that all nations under the stars have their own interpretation of the night skies. Western knowledge has been embedded into today’s educational curricula, but the goal of Keeper’s workshop is to pass on local Elders’ knowledge and teachings to local youth so they can learn and pass along their own culture’s perspective of the night sky.

For more information or educational resources check out Atchaksuk, First Nations Astronomy course.

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Some Elder’s say “You are the land your people live on.” The land’s influence touches everything from chores to etiquette to prayers. Even on the physical level, foods that mothers eat, harvested from around their homes, form the bodies of their children.

When people move onto land, they develop a lifestyle as they collect the resources needed to live. After a few generations, this lifestyle and the interaction with the other nations that live around their landscape become the foundation of the people’s culture and history. And as the people live on their land, as they reach up and the stars reach down, this becomes their deeper teachings about life, the Universe, and everything. This relationship to the land they live on is what makes a culture, or in Cree, ininiw pimatisiwin (a way of life). This relationship to the land they live on is what makes a culture “Indigenous.” It also explains why the peoples of the prairies live a different life than the peoples who live on the coasts, or in the forests, or near a volcano. The very lessons within the land are different.

Having grown up on the land as a Misipawistik Cree First Nation member, First Nations educator Norbert Mercredi now works as an expert on land-based teaching and First Nations games and entertainment. His people are connected to a river and were known in traditional times as the Namew Inniwak, or Sturgeon Cree. He remembers a time when all the toys came from the land.

“When I was young, we made all our toys. There was no plastic. We made our toys. When we went out, we would stay out all day. We didn’t go home to eat. We ate the fruit of the forest around us. The boys, we’d have contests to see who could swim the fastest up the river. The river was strong, moved fast, so it meant something to be the best. I don’t remember fights in those days. We competed against the river, and if you could be the best at something, everyone was happy for you for that,” Mercredi says.

Mercredi says the land was used extensively as a teaching tool during traditional times. For example, traditional place names often mention an area’s history or potential resources. To journey out to those places, to walk trails that First Nations ancestors walked, meant to learn the history and stories that went with the landscape. This connection to the land also explains why different First Nations cultures may name the geographical points in a landscape differently, as they may view the history that happened there from a different, and sometimes opposing, perspective. The alternate place names may highlight contrary perspectives on a battle, a meeting of people, or even the relative safety of an area. By walking through their traditional territory with their Elders, local youth learn their culture’s history and perspective on the land and the events that impacted their nation. Mercredi says this linking of the landscape and teaching doesn’t just exist in the realm of history but ventures into deeper beliefs.

“When we sat around the campfire at night, it was the stars that inspired the Creation Stories. Some stories were only told in the winter. Some lessons were only taught in the spring when the land was coming alive. Everything had its time and place. There were places and times for everything to be taught. There are sacred sites throughout what is now known as Manitoba that people would visit to learn certain teachings, where they would do ceremony. Teachings were often delivered through the ceremony itself,” Mercredi says. He adds, when it came to play, because everything was built from the land, the higher teachings of history, culture, and worldview were mixed with the bread-andbutter teachings of how and when to harvest materials for building toys and sports equipment, how to prepare an area and make it safe, and when certain games and teachings were appropriate.

“How do you clear the ice in winter? Well, you learn when you prepare for the kona kinepik or, as it is known in English, the snow snake toss. In this game, a stick is slid across the ice, and whoever can get their stick to travel farthest is the winner. To get through the snow to the ice, they would drag a log, tied to ropes, over the snow, which would clear a path for the sliding sticks.” Mercredi points out that this game improved hand-eye coordination for things like hunting. “Just by preparing and playing snow snake, a child would learn a bunch of different skills and tactics that would be relevant in their adult life,” Mercredi says.

Of course, the lessons learned through toys and play are just a sliver of the teachings available through landbased learning. Elder Florence Paynter believes revitalizing First Nations languages is crucial to carrying First Nations philosophies into the future.

“Language is so important to who we are. Our beliefs and values can be found in the language. When we take our children out on to the land, and we teach them how to survive, we can do it in our languages. In that way, we’ll teach them, not only general conversation, but the more in-depth and subject-specific language, like anatomy,” Elder Paynter says.

Elder Paynter was born and raised on the Sandy Bay First Nation and says everything she learned as a child was connected to the land. “We harvested our foods and medicines from the environment. This is what we are calling land-based learning today because many of our people are not thinking about the critical skills our children and their children will need in order to survive. It was through helping their Elders pick medicine, harvest plants for food and shelter, and hunt for food and resources that they were taught the knowledge and skills that supported their culture and survival.”

Harvesting materials often means harvesting them at a particular time so the properties of the item are suitable for the assigned use. For example, a medicinal plant may be harvested at different times in its life stages, depending on the treatment and the properties needed. A seedling may have different medicinal uses than the fruit of the adult plant.

“Some of these deeper, more specific teachings can’t be found in a book. You need to be out on the land to find the plant you want to teach about, to show the youth where it grows and why, how it is harvested and used, and to tell them why the relationship with that plant is important to their people. It is through those teachings that we will be able to make the youth, not only fluent in their culture and traditional skills, but also in their language, as they learn the more intricate and in-depth lessons,” Elder Paynter says.

Putting together something like a birchbark canoe involves a range of materials that all need to be harvested when the properties are best for the canoe. This required experimentation and knowledge of plants and their properties, rivalling modern biologists.

“Land-based learning is often about learning by doing. And this goes for language too. Learn it by using it. This philosophy of learning can happen in the home too. If you want to learn your language, wash dishes with your auntie and have her speak in your language while you both do it. You’ll be learning something, your auntie will feel valued and appreciated, and you’ll both have fun doing it. Most times, at the end of land-based learning, a lesson has been taught, a lot of fun was had, and a chore was accomplished,” Elder Paynter says.

Land-based learning offers many learning opportunities, and being close to nature has proven to have a calming and positive effect on hearts and minds. Recent studies have found that spending time within nature can improve memory and mental flexibility and increase attention span and control. While theories abound as to why this occurs, it is generally thought that being in nature triggers a physiological response that reduces stress. For teachers, this may result in students who are more interested in what is being taught and better able to retain the lessons.

Educator Mercredi says that being on the land, within a forest, or out on the lake has a calming effect that helps students learn. This is just one of the reasons he feels land-based learning is so important to revitalizing First Nations cultures and languages.

“Nature touches our hearts and minds. Mother Nature can help us calm down. I’ve seen students who went crazy in the classroom become calm and interested when outside. Going out on the land has an effect on our emotions. It’s hard to stay angry when you are out on the land. Even, just working on, you know, the nervous energy of students through physical labor has an impact and makes them more ready to learn. It’s so important that we reconnect all students to nature, but especially First Nations students. The very culture, history, and language of the First Nations students come from these lands.”

Davin Dumas, the Resource Centre’s director of Languages and Cultures, supported the development and completion of the Land-Based Education Support Document for Educators, a recent publication by the Resource Centre. “Within our newest teaching tool are lessons and strategies meant to promote mino-bimaadiziwin, or a good life, for First Nation students. The First Nation philosophies within the Support Document are based on the knowledge shared by the working group participants, who were representative of the Ininowak, Anishinaabe, Anisiniwak, Denesuline, and Dakota nations. The resource begins with foundational lessons, but then each unit delves into the activities and teachings that go with specific times of the year and the most appropriate activities for that season or moon. These lessons are then narrowed down to reflect each of the First Nation cultures so the lessons can speak to students’ local regions. The revitalization of First Nation languages, beliefs, knowledge, and skills is the focal point of the Support Document.”

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Registration is now closed for Lighting the Fire 2023!
Our Trade Show is also full!

The Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre is pleased to announce the Lighting the Fire Conference 2023 will be held at the Victoria Inn, Winnipeg, from May 10th to 12th.  This year’s theme, Break Through to Excellence in First Nation Education, will be the focus of the workshops and presentations that make up much of the gathering.

Lighting the Fire presentations and discussions will reflect the important work that the Resource Centre is doing to push forward the boundaries of First Nations education, not only in forwarding teaching skills and the revitalization of First Nations cultures but also providing cutting-edge services in the areas of administration, new technology, and clinical care, which includes mental health and special needs services as well as care for students who fall under Jordan’s Principle.

The Resource Centre seeks out excellence in everything that can improve the learning experience for First Nation students and teaching staff. This year’s Lighting the Fire conference will explore the tools, resources, and teaching approaches that promote excellence in First Nation schools. As always, the conference workshops will resonate with the importance of First Nations languages and cultures to strengthen student identity and encourage their gifts.

If you have any questions, please email Phyllis Murray at phyllism@mfnerc.com.

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The MFNERC Inclusive Education Services Dept. is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a two-day forum for youth in grades 7-12. The theme of this year’s forum is  “First Nations Excellence: Getting Youth Excited on Who They Are and Who They Can Become” and this is related to emotional well-being issues faced by First Nations Youth, using a holistic approach. The forum is scheduled as follows:

Place:          RBC Convention Centre, Winnipeg

Date:           March 1 & 2, 2023

Time:          9:00 am – 3:00 pm daily

The criteria to attend are as follows:

  • Students from grades 7 to 12, and
  • has not attended one of the youth forums.

The purpose of the event is to seek input and gather information from youth representatives from First Nations regarding community-based needs. It will also provide students with an opportunity to connect and collaborate with other First Nations students.

Possible Attendees

MFNERC will be sponsoring four (4) youth representatives (2 males & 2 females) along with two (2) chaperones (1 male & 1 female) from each First Nation to attend this event. Chaperones and the youth representatives attending this event will be provided travel expenses for flights/mileage, accommodations, meals, and incidentals. A travel expense cheque will be made out in the chaperone’s name for each youth, and the chaperone must distribute the funds to the students.

Chaperone Info

Chaperones will be responsible to make reservations for the room, payment for the room, and the damage deposit. Specific instructions will be included on the registration form explaining the specific requirements for the distribution of accommodations and meals. Chaperones are required to participate in the workshops and activities with their youth.

Photos/videos will be taken

The MFNERC Publishing Dept. will have a representative taking pictures and recording the forum, therefore all students are required to have the attached consent form filled and returned with the registration forms or bring it to the forum.

To get a registration/travel form, email annec@mfnerc.com. Then fax it to 204-942-2490, no later than Friday, February 17, 2023.

If you have any questions, contact Anne Cameron at 204-594-1290 at extension 2150 or toll-free at 1-866-319-4857.

Thank you for your attention to this notice and we look forward to seeing you at this exciting event!

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Discover Your Path – Virtual Event 2023

Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC) is pleased to announce we will host our second Career Fair for our member schools on, February 28, 2023. The event has been renamed to, Discover Your Path – Virtual Event, to better reflect the opportunities available to our Manitoba First Nations Youth. Opportunities that range from professional, technical, business, medical, etc., to more traditional, cultural and Northern Manitoba industry related life paths like forestry, agriculture, trapping, and more!

Manitoba universities, colleges, employers, and organizations offering unique life options for our students, will gather virtually to provide information and thought-provoking future paths for our youth. 

EDUCATORS: Help your students explore their career and education opportunities virtually! Access the Educator information sheet by clicking here.

COST: Free for educators, staff, students, and parents of MFNERC or MFNSS schools.

DATE & TIME: February 28, 2023 – 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM

Registration options:

  • Have your students register individually with their own email addresses.
  • Register once with your email address and allow your students to use your login to explore the event.
  • Register with your email address and show the event and livestreams on a projector to your class.

Register online at: https://mfnerc-careerfair.virtualeventhub.ca/

Downloadable Registration Form.

For more information please contact Shawna Spence at ShawnaS@mfnerc.com or call (204) 594-1290.

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The Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre is excited to host the MFNERC Language
Gathering 2023. This event will occur on January 18-19, 2023, at the Victoria Inn, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The focus will be on First Nations languages and cultures using the theme of Building First Nations
Language and Culture Foundation
s. We are pleased to provide this opportunity for MFNERC/MFNSS
member First Nations to come together to reaffirm the importance of First Nations languages and
cultures. An Elders panel will discuss the importance of reclaiming, preserving, and revitalizing our First
Nations languages. Various sessions will allow participants to engage, share, and learn about First Nations teaching strategies, concepts, and cultures.

Registration is limited!! You are encouraged to register as soon as possible.

Link to Registration Form.

Please be advised that MFNERC will not be responsible for travel and accommodations for this
event. Interested schools must complete and send the attached registration form to Ashley
Kinsman at ashleyk@mfnerc.com or by fax to 204-477-4314 by January 6, 2023.

If you wish to book your stay at the Victoria Inn, you can call 204-786-4801 and ask to reserve a room in
the MFNERC group block (group code 261272) to access the discounted rate of $129 plus tax before
January 6, 2023.

Should you have any questions regarding the above, please get in touch with Davin Dumas at
davind@mfnerc.com.

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This three day event, hosting in the spring, brings together over one thousand delegates to share best practices and methodologies, that reflect First Nations culture, traditions and values. Lighting the Fire is an alternative to mainstream education conferences, attracting indigenous educators, those working in First Nations schools and educators from various school divisions.

Lighting the Fire features dynamic and engaging workshops that provide educators and facilitators an opportunity to learn, and incorporate, ground-breaking, practical approaches in the classroom ensuring that our diverse cultures and achievements as First Nations are reflected in student learning.

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