Friday, 30 June 2017

Our TLLP Wrap-Up

We've created a slideshow to summarize our yearlong TLLP project.  We're looking forward to continuing our learning next year!

Google Slideshow

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Acknowledgement of the Land

Our municipality and school have the name, "Assiginack".  I asked the students if they knew who Assiginack was.  A few students responded that he was a chief, but did not know anything about his significance.  I challenged the students to find out who Assiginack was.

They began researching and sharing information about Jean Baptiste Assiginack and ultimately learning about the history of the Manitoulin Treaties.   Students discovered that Manitoulin Island was originally home to the Ojibwa, Odawa, and Potawatomi.  In 1836, Manitoulin Island was designated as a refuge for all Indigenous people.  Later, the government decided to open Manitoulin Island to non-Indigenous settlement.  J.B. Assiginack supported the idea, but most of the chiefs did not.  A treaty was signed in 1862 where most of Manitoulin Island was relinquished to the Crown.  The chiefs of Wiikwemkoong refused to sign the treaty.  As a result, the eastern peninsula of the Island remains unceded Indigenous land. 

Upon learning the history of the municipality, the students decided to write an acknowledgement to the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi and their traditional territory.  They met with the principal of the school to request that the acknowledgement of territory be read every morning before O'Canada.  They used ETFO's Acknowledgment of Territory as a reference. 

Students began to read the Acknowledgement of Territory during morning annoucements on June 28.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Birth Ceremony for Our Hand Drums

The students and I were very excited to participate in a ceremony to birth our new hand drums.  We were very fortunate to have Roberta Oshkabewisens facilitate and explain the ceremony for us.  

Roberta laid out a blanket and we sat around it in a circle with our drums.  She began the ceremony by having us smudge.  She shared with us additional drum teachings.  She explained that the drum is both male and female.  The wood frame is male and the hide is female.  The hide is like a dress.  The lacing represents family and/or community and we need to hold it together (I hope I remembered that correctly!)

Roberta then smudged each drum.  

Tobacco was placed on the drums and each of us was asked "What do you see?"  Roberta explained that what we saw in the tobacco would tell the story of our drums.

The drums were feasted with strawberries.  We each took a strawberry and fed our drums by rubbing the strawberry on it.  

We put the tobacco, strawberry, and umbibical cord (the remaining string) from the drum and wrapped it in a red cloth.  We would put the bundle on the north side of a tree later.

Roberta picked up her drum and sand the Eagle Song to each of our drums.  We then sang a song together.

It was an amazing experience.

* I had asked permission to take photos before we began the ceremony.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Medicine Walk

One of the communities in our vicinity has an organization that does "medicine walks".  One of our goals for our Teacher Leadership and Learning Program Project (TLLP), was to infuse Indigenous perspectives into the classroom.  What better way than to take students out on a walk and explore the traditional medicines available in "nature's pharmacy".

When we arrived at the beginning of our walk, we participated in a "smudging" ceremony, which involves the burning of sage to provide cleansing smoke before we entered the woods.  We were also asked to take a small bit of tobacco and place it by a plant as an offering and a thank you.  The students were enthralled by the seriousness with which this ceremony took place.  They were completely engaged in the process.

As we walked, our guide explained how the stone found along the trail would have been used as a tool by Indigenous people to scrape the cedar bark for fire starter material.  He explained how the oils from the cedar leaf is used to make tea that is used for a variety of ailments, such as coughs and colds.  But he also warned that cedar sap can be poisonous!

Continuing along, we learned about balsam sap, fiddleheads, chagga and countless other plants.  Students questioned.  They listened.  They explored.  One student was overheard saying, "I wish we could do this kind of thing every day."

At lunchtime, we sat on a bluff overlooking a beautiful inland lake.  Our guide shared a story with us about the origin of the lake.  Prior to beginning, he explained to us that traditionally, storytelling is something that occurs in winter months.  Again, we watched as students listened intently.  The view was breathtaking and hearing the story of how the "Old Grandmother" island came to be was an unforgettable combination.  

On our journey, we also encountered a wind turbine, erected in the last few years on this First Nations reserve.  Students debated the merits and downsides to having a turbine in the community.  They recalled the discussions of alternative energies and their pros and cons from class - great way to bring the conversation to life.  They could see the turbine, hear it...  We could hear banter back and forth - how exciting!

After a long hike, we headed back to an area with a firepit and tipis.  We waited for the students who had been busy all day making drums.  As we waited, we participated in some pow wow dancing.  Even students who are typically reluctant to get up and participate danced.  On the bus ride home, there was chatter about the experience.  Excitement.  Engagement.  Interest in learning more.

Today, I learned a bunch of new things about plants and herbs.  I also learned a story from my community.  But mostly, I think today reinforced the value of learning from another culture's knowledge base.  Oftentimes, we think of traditional medicines as outdated and antiquated, and not nearly as valuable as modern methodologies.  But these are medicines and practices honed over generations, centuries.  The Indigenous people of this land lived here for thousands of years without modern medicines...there MUST be something to that!!!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Hand Drum

GSCT Logo on Hand Drum

Indigenous people refer to the drum as the heartbeat of Mother Earth.  It is used in spiritual and sacred practices.  I have always wanted to make my own hand drum and was excited to have the opportunity to make one with my students at Great Spirit Circle Trail in M'Chigeeng.  

When we first arrived at GCST, we participated in a smudging ceremony led by our facilitator, Craig. Smudging involves the burning of tobacco, sage, sweetgrass, and cedar.  We first cleansed our hands with the smoke as though we were washing our hands.  We then drew the smoke to our heads, eyes, ears, mouths, and our body.  The purpose was to remind us to think good thoughts, see good actions, hear and speak good words, and to show the good of who we are.  Participation in the smudging ceremony was voluntary.  

Four Sacred Medicines: Cedar, Sage, Sweetgrass, and Tobacco
Craig shared the story of the drum.  A similar story can be found at Sheshegwaning Women's Hand Drum Singers.  

GSCT provided students with a wood frame, deer hide in a circular shape with pre-punched holes, and a long string of hide.  The hide had been soaking in water for a couple of hours to make it easy to work with.  Students were instructed to place the circular hide onto the frame.

Students then attached the hide to the frame by stinging the long skinny pieces of hide through the pre-punched holes.  It was a lot more difficult than it sounds.  Several students had to restart the process a couple of times.  

The hide string needed to be tightened up.  This took long for some and they had to add water to keep the hide from getting to dry and difficult to work with.

When the hide string was tight, students wrapped the remaining hide around to create a handle.  Balance was important in wrapping the hide to make the handle.  The string of hide is left to be cut during the birthing ceremony.

The drum is complete, but needs to dry for atleast four days.

Learning about the drum and constructing it was an amazing experience.  The students were very proud of themselves and eager to share what they learned with others.  

 A student sharing what he learned with others when we returned to school.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Water Walk 2017 & Picking Up Our Bundles

We were very fortunate to have a visit from Norma Peltier and Edward George today. Norma is a part of For the Earth and Water Walk 2017 and Edward is a part of Picking Up the Bundles Canoe Journey.

For the Earth and Water Walk is an initiative of respected Anishinaabe Elder, Josephine Mandamin.  Josephine has walked countless kilometers along shorelines and endured all kinds of weather praying for water.  Her current Water Walk began on Spirit Mountain, Deluth, Minnesota and will continue along the Great Lakes to Mantane, Quebec, on the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

Picking Up the Bundles Canoe Journey is a cermonial canoe journey that moves in support and solidarity with For the Earth and Water Walk 2017.  

Norma and Edward explained the significance of the Water Walk and Canoe Journey, shared the route, and explained some of the protocols.  It was explained that when they are walking for water they are in Ceremony until they reach their destination.  Women are responsible for making the offerings and wear long skirts to show respect for Mother Earth.  Men do not carry the water, but help by carrying the Eagle Feather Staff and providing protection on the busy road ways.  The water, filled in Deluth, is carried in the copper pot. 

Norma and Edward offered tobacco to the students.  The students held the tobacco in their hands while thinking good thoughts for healthy water.  Norma and Edward collected the tobacco and wrapped it in a red cloth to take with them to offer to the water.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Indigenous Games with KTEI

Steven Pruchnicki and Dana Stevens of KenjegewinTeg Educational Institute instructed the students on the history of and how to play Indigenous Games.  The games included lacrosse, double ballk, pole push, stick pull, archery, and two-foot high kick.  The students had a lot of fun playing the games and are looking forward participating in the inaugural Manitoulin Indigenous Games.