Canoe Lake boosts cultural programming in school
- NC Raine | October 04, 2019
Canoe Lake Miksiw School may be a small institution in the northern community of Canoe Lake Cree Nation, but their ideas and initiatives are as progressive and culturally-minded as any school in the province.
This school year, the Canoe Lake is wasting no time boosting their cultural programing for students. They kicked off the school year with a medicine walk offered to the students. Later in September, students from the school will attend at hunting camp where they learn to hunt and harvest an animal from the land. From there, a school led community feast will take place in October.
“It’s about common values, that we’re out on the land and teaching the students about respect, that relationality and reciprocity,” said Geraldine Rediron, vice-principal of Canoe Lake.
“The students learn that things aren’t always linear, they’re circular. We’re giving them the opportunity to understand their way of knowing.”
Together with local knowledge keepers, elders, and the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, Canoe Lake School has established a Lands, Language, Relationships, and Culture curriculum for its kindergarten to grade 4 classes.
They are also developing curriculum for their grade 5-9 students based on the same culturally focused principles.
“The classroom is not just within the walls of this building. The classroom that we learned from long ago was the land itself. That’s the best learning you can have,” said principal Arliss Coulineur.
“When the kids say how much fun they had out there, it means there was something they acquired when they were out on the land,” he said.
But the teaching staff at Canoe Lake understands that if they are to teach out on the land, they need to experience it themselves. Before the school year, Coulineur took his staff for a medicine walk – a full day out on the land.
“It gave them a bigger appreciation for why land based learning is needed,” said Coulineur. “We had a circle talk and a lot of emotions came out during that time. We really reconnected.”
“Some of the feedback was that this was the most powerful professional development they’ve ever had. And this was just in our own backyard,” added Rediron.
Of course, remote school locations bring their share of challenges. This summer, highway 903 – Canoe Lake’s main access road – washed out after heavy rains. Access to reliable transportation is the biggest challenge for the school, said Coulineur.
But some of these challenges are atoned by the great benefits of a northern school.
“It’s personal, its home. Everyone feels like they’re part of the school. We really work hard on providing a sense of belonging,” said Rediron. “We’re promoting a positive space for everyone to grow and learn.”