A program at Father R. Perrin school in Janvier is teaching kids about their Indigenous roots.
Back in February, kids in grades 4 and 5 in the Experiential Learning Initiative attended an ice fishing camp to learn about traditional ways to ice fish.
This week, in the continuity of the ELI schedule – the kids are now learning how to de-feather a duck and cook it over a fire.
Students spent some of the afternoon roasting bannock on a stick over an open fire, while a volunteer prepared some moose soup as they learned the process of gutting a duck.
ELI coordinator Rosalind Best tells Mix News the program teaches these students lessons they wouldn’t normally learn in an average environment.
“It’s their traditional skill that they can’t just pick up in a book and learn it. You have to actually practice it and learn how to do it in order to do it. And if this generation doesn’t practice and learn these skills – it’ll be lost.”
Sammy Hermen is a volunteer with ELI and says these types of lessons are important for keeping their sacred customs alive.
“My grandmother went to residential school and her and my grandfather raised pretty much my entire family in the woods. My aunts, my uncles. Me myself, I was raised in the woods for about 15 years.”
Because many ancestors of these students spent time in residential schools, some of these customs have been lost or forgotten over time.
Best feels even an activity like duck plucking, while not customary in most public schools, is a great way to reconnect the elder First Nations with a younger generation of eager learners.
She says the goal of ELI is to teach kids a little more about the origins of their culture.
“It connects them to who they are, maybe their family doesn’t go out and cook but they are a First Nations person and they understand that this is what their ancestors did. So, it instills a bit of pride in themselves.”
For Best, it’s about taking lessons learned from the past and applying it to the future.
Next week the class heads to Jasper to learn about other native customs outside of Janvier.
In June, there are plans to conduct a games week – which will teach the students about promoting cultural pride through traditional First Nations activities.