Quebec students discover Wanuskewin as part of interchange program
- EFN Staff | August 07, 2017
“Our roots are deep”. This was the powerful message that a group of interchange students from Montreal heard from Chris Standing during a tour of Wanuskewin Heritage Park on June 29th.
Four girls and four boys from various parts of Montreal and Quebec are visiting Saskatchewan on the first leg of an interchange program with the Children’s International Summer Village (CISV). The group of sixteen delegates joined team leaders and parents in an interactive journey through one of the most exciting archeological finds in North America.
Over ten days, they will be sharing their time and lives with eight families from Saskatchewan learning about daily life and working on developing communication skills to overcome language challenges. Then they all go back to Quebec and are immersed in French culture. The purpose of the Montreal interchange is to build open mindedness, tolerance and reduce discriminatory behavior in individuals.
It was important to this year’s interchange to include exposure and learning about the importance of the Indigenous culture in Saskatchewan. Wanuskewin was an obvious choice, offering not only a strong cultural component, but also the history that served as particularly poignant heading into Canada’s 150th celebration.
Chris Standing provided a guided tour of the Opimihaw Valley giving the kids a glimpse of what life was like on the prairie long ago. He offered teachings about the archaeological story of Wanuskewin and introduced participants to the medicines of First Nations people. The kids loved the breathtaking views from the top of the valley and found the stories about how the area was used very interesting. Interchange student Pacific Vallee said that “it was fun to walk and see how the bison was used here a long time ago.”
The CISV uses hands on learning to promote a growing understanding of diversity, conflict resolution, human rights and sustainable development with the hope that participants can then apply that learning to their every day lives to make a positive impact in the community they live in. The teachings of the tipi raising, lead by Mary Merasty were a perfect fit given the ethos of the CISV program.
The kids were taught about the circle of life and traditional roles of women and elders. Mary asked each kid to participate by placing a new pole in each of the stages of life: Infancy, Youth, Adult and Elder. With each new pole, Mary carefully explained the intended learning. She discussed things like respect, humility, self-love, gratefulness and sharing. Her passion for sharing this knowledge kept all the participants engaged and eager to participate. “I love knowing that people have been coming to this place for thousands of years. I have had so many opportunities to share the history and knowledge of Wanuskewin with people from all over the world in the four years that I have been working here,” said Merasty.
Montreal leader Johanne Berthiaume expressed how excellent she thought the tour was, not only for the kids, but also as an educator herself. “I felt like I was able to get a better understanding of this culture that I can now take back and apply to how I teach my classes,” said Berthiaume.
The group ended the day by enjoying a variety of traditional foods like rabbit stew, bison burgers, and bannock at the incredible restaurant, one of Saskatoon’s unique treasures. The learning, extraordinary views, and infusion of traditional culture certainly gave the Montreal visitors something to remember.