(Students at Kitaskinaw School drum and sing as part of the Sacred Water Project. Photo APTN/Brandi Morin)
APTN National News
ENOCH CREE NATION — A First Nations school in Alberta is using a grant from the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada (JGI) to help students learn more about their land, community and cultural identity.
Kitaskinaw School is one of four First Nation schools in Canada, and the only one in Alberta to receive a grant for a Sacred Water Project from the JGI.
Through a partnership with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in April 2009, JGI Canada is now expanding the reach of its Roots & Shoots program.
With funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the program has identified more than twenty communities to work with.
The main goals of the project are to empower Aboriginal youth to make change in their own communities.
The institute’s education manager, Jen Duffy said there is great synergy between the message of the Jane Goodall Institute and Indigenous ways of knowing. (knowing?)
“The message from Dr. Goodall is, we need to remember our relationship with the land and that is a message that all Indigenous people are also sharing,” she said.
“It’s about remembering that the water is a relative, not a resource. It’s obvious that the water is sick because we’re not treating it as well as we could.”
The Roots and Shoots program includes several initiatives that began last February at Kitaskinaw School including a leadership element dedicated to honouring Indigenous knowledge and understandings. Students have been researching current water issues and becoming re-connected with their culture.
They are using what they’ve learned about the sacredness of water to make a difference going forward.
“We’ve decided to do something about water, because it’s one of our most treasured resources. It’s being used selfishly, wastefully,” said Grade 9 student Dreydon Thomas-Crane.
Traditional teacher Rocky Morin helped to bring the $16,000 grant to the school and said that most young people are unaware of the significance of water.
“Elders often tell us through ceremony and other gatherings that water is sacred and we always need to remember that, especially to teach the young people that,” said Morin.
“So we’re able to bring that awareness to the forefront and people will learn about that and understand just how important it is to acknowledge water spiritually, but also from a physical aspect.”
Students also completed a drum making project that included making 25 traditional drums and 25 traditional rattles. The drums and rattles are now used in the daily school-wide singing of a traditional Cree morning song.
(Enoch Cree Nation students perform the morning song: APTN/Brandi Morin)
Elders have been working alongside the youth for the project to help them learn Indigenous research methods that honour oral tradition and Cree natural law. In June leadership students and Elders plan to visit the traditional territory of Enoch and give traditional offerings to the river water.
Dr. Patsy Steinhauer, a teacher at the school, said the program has brought a sort of awakening.
“So many profound things have come from this,” she said.
“It’s acknowledging our bodies and the earth as water bodies- both being the same thing.”
Students also plan to hold a two-day water conference with assistance from local Elders.
On Thursday, the entire school and members of the community participated in a water walk to bring awareness to the project.
Thomas-Crane said he’s going to take what’s he’s learned about the importance of water and sustainability to impact future generations.
“I hope we can become leaders of our generation and hopefully inspire the next generation to do something,” he said.
For further information on the Roots and Shoots program go to http://janegoodall.ca/get-involved/rootsandshoots/