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Wisdom: Not just reading, writing and recess, but reflection and reconciliation too

Superior -Greenstone District Schools offer students a variety of knowledge building fun for National Indigenous History Month.
National Indigenous History Month
Among the various visual elements illustrating Indigenous cultures, the circle is at the centre, which represents being together in spirit of reconciliation. The orange colour represents truth-telling and healing. The pathway represents the road to reconciliation. First Nations, Inuit and Métis are represented in the image. The eagle represents First Nations The narwhal represents the Inuit The beaded flower represents Métis

GREENSTONE – Superior – Greenstone students will have the advantage of participating in various programs during National Indigenous Month. The program will focus on First Nations, Inuit, and Metis history, health care, technology, art, and cuisine, as well as, fun-filled activities that promote the cultural diversity of Indigenous peoples.

From stories from Indigenous authors to introducing the students to Indigenous engineering, the programs offer something for all school ages.

“When you are looking at National Indigenous History Month, we need to really ensure that we are tying in history somewhere in there,” said Shy-Anne Bartlett, manager of Indigenous Education. “So, it's not just learning opportunities, and it’s not just the one-off kind of things. So that people can have a chance, the teachers, the students, and the staff have an opportunity to engage in a variety of different opportunities that bring different types of learning and understanding.”

Students won’t just be sitting in the classroom reading and writing. There are many opportunities to engage with the content outside of the traditional classroom setting.

Although, many of the younger classes (Grades K-4) will still have to be required to participate in many of the workshops that promote literacy skills. Superior- Greenstone Schools programming extends beyond retention skills.

Superior- Greenstone students will explore Indigenous knowledge systems by learning about holistic medicinal practices through the use of plant life, athletic exercises by learning and playing Lacrosse (a sport invented by Indigenous people), Indigenous Leadership Skills by discussing how to build bridges with neighbours, and technology and engineering skills by learning about the many ways birch bark is used to craft items like canoes and baskets with special guest Mary Magiskan.

“With Mary, she's going to be coming in and speaking about the importance of birch barks and how the canoe is basically a Canadian icon, but it’s an Indigenous invention,” Bartlett acknowledges. “And how birch bark is used for so much more than just the canoes.”

The younger students will be able to make an offering birch bark basket, while the older students (Grades 5-8) will take on the project of creating smaller-scale birch bark canoes. 

These containers of birch bark were used for cooking, gathering berries, hauling water, and storing food, as well as, providing an offering to the Earth.

Students will actively engage with the material by learning the history of Indigenous through hands-on activities. 

“We also really wanted to look at the programs and see what are we covering that meets the emotional needs of students, the physical needs of students, the intellectual needs of students, and the spiritual needs of students.”

Once such exercise will be the Kairo Blanket. 

“You basically are walking through colonization as a group of Indigenous people, and so the two facilitators, one is the European population and the other facilitator is speaking for the Indigenous effects, “said Bartlett. “As you go through the exercise, you can see how Turtle Island is rich with Indigenous people right across, up there with the Inuit, the Metis came a little later but they are mentioned too and how that affects culture as well. And you see the Indigenous populations shrink down to nothing become separated and broken.”

The Kairo Blanket Exercise is based on using Indigenous methodologies and the goal is to build an understanding of our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The students (Grades 4-8) will walk through the history of European colonization through several historical stages including pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance.

The student will be actively involved as they step onto blankets that represent the land, and into the role of First Nations, Inuit and later Métis peoples.

It is one thing to read about colonization from a textbook, but it is another to interact with the effects of colonization through the Kairo Blanket exercise.

Bartlett remarks, “there is that whole hands-on experience. You actually walk through it, move through it, experience it, and when you are asked to leave your home now, step off the blanket, you died of smallpox joint the ancestors, people will be like, “oh geez,” and think they are part of it.” 

By engaging on an emotional and intellectual level, the Blanket Exercise effectively educates and increases empathy and provides an extra impact on the horrifying history of Indigenous people.

Each week the Superior- Greenstone will have special guests engaging with the students. The Marathon region will be treated to a live performance from Juno nominee Leonard Sumner on June 9.

Art and Culture go hand in hand through traditional dance and song. Like the drum beat simulates the heartbeat, dance illustrates the expression of spirituality, history and culture. Traditional dance is interpretive and tells a story through movement.

On June 6, the Nipigon, Red Rock, and Dorion regional high schools joined in a language-based Pow Wow that focused on language revitalization. Throughout the Pow Wow, students were tasked to engage with Anishinaabe Boodawe languages while attending the Pow Wow celebration.  

For the younger students, virtual presentations will also offer more opportunities to engage with dance.

Angela Miracle Gladue, a professional choreographer for A Trible Called Red, will engage the student with a blending of Indigenous and Hip-Hop dancing. She will also educate the students on the difference between appreciating and appropriating cultural traditions.

Therefore, Superior-Greenstone District School is offering their student a rich history of Indigenous knowledge through their programming this month in celebration of National Indigenous History Month. 

Join them by researching and engaging with the many resources National Indigenous History Month has to offer. 

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