Community Working-Groups Meet with MFNERC to Complete Land-Based Curriculum

MFNERC’s Research & Development (R&D) team recently held a working-group meeting with community members from Manitoba First Nations to finish a land-based curriculum due to come out in 2020. The meeting featured guest speakers—educators currently doing valuable land education work in Manitoba communities.

New, Vital Document

Land-Based: A Support Document for Educators aims to encourage and guide teacher/instructor practices for land-based learning in First Nations. This curriculum stresses the importance of using First Nations languages while learning about First Nations values, survival skills, and hunting/gathering skills. In-depth lesson plans and practical blackline masters make life easier for busy instructors.

Manitoba Communities Involved in Development

In January, R&D staff hosted the two-day meeting (the sixth session held over a four-year research/writing period) for Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and land-based instructors to see the teacher-support document draft and share ideas from their southern and northern working-group teams.

Content Uniquely First Nations

Developers ordered the curriculum according to the six seasons and 13 moons—First Nations ancestral ways of living and learning. Methods of sustainability that First Nations have practised since time immemorial, such as ensuring clean water for generations to come, are explored in the resource. The curriculum includes words in the five Manitoba First Nations languages for topics, seasons, and moons.

Land-Based Learning Essential to Communities

Land-based learning allows students of all ages to connect to the gifts of the Creator. Such learning provides a holistic way for students to maintain a balance of spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health. Quotes featured in the curriculum demonstrate why First Nations Peoples have always practised land-based learning:

Reflected in the circle and cycles of life, Laws of the Land are learned by observing Mother Earth … Everything happens in cycles … Nature keeps repeating herself so that we come to understand balance. We are supposed to follow the Laws of the Land, so we stay balanced and connected to the land.

Harry Bone, Dave Courchene, and Robert Greene, The Journey of the Spirit of the Red Man: A Message from the Elders (Trafford, 2012), 29.

Land Programs Enjoying Success

First Nations instructors in Manitoba have land-based programs already in place, and a number of these community members shared at January’s meeting.

  • Lizette Denechezhe, a land-based teacher from Northlands Denésuline First Nation, Lac Brochet, brought a Dene cultural display to the meeting, which included deer hide, scrapers made from moose leg/caribou bone, a baby rattle, and traditional medicines that she collected with students, along with a picture board of students participating in land-based activities.
  • Sophie Rabliauskas from Poplar River First Nation discussed the numerous studies and books worked on by the Nation to protect the land and record Traditional Knowledge for generations to come. Poplar River is a co-developer of the “Pimachiowin Aki, the Land that Gives Life” World Heritage Site.
  • Gerry Mason, a teacher from Fisher River Cree Nation, shared about Charles Sinclair School’s outdoor education program, which enjoys the use of a land-based youth camp featured in the video Fisher River Language Camp. Follow the latest happenings of the outdoor program on the Facebook page Fisher River Land-Based Education.
  • A teacher in Sagkeeng First Nation, Allan Courchene partnered with Brokenhead Ojibway Nation and Food Matters Manitoba on the video Are Traditional Foods Still Safe to Eat? At the meeting, Courchene discussed the availability of government grants to promote science in First Nations, grants which he has accessed to test the water, bring U of M’s portable lab to Sagkeeng, test deer livers for cacogenics, and culture wild rice.

R & D staff have listened to the valuable experience of communities and are incorporating their suggestions to the document. The curriculum is now in the final stages of review, and its launch will include training for school educators. Once in the communities, this curriculum will promote an inherent teaching style of First Nations—a style which will ensure that future generations thrive on Turtle Island.

Guest post by Kirby Gilman

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