The Sākewew Permaculture and Treaty Education program has now completed its third year of in-school and in-forest programming with grade nine students at Sākewew High School in North Battleford. The program is comprised of a series of half-day sessions with diverse and talented NatureQuest programmers who offer a wide range of valuable and engaging perspectives on the land through permaculture, treaty, ecology, art, and culture. Sessions include nature photography, native plant identification and medicinal uses, treaty education, boreal ecology, as well as storytelling, and music. All sessions are interdisciplinary and meet curriculum ties in an engaging way, allowing students to explore and develop ideas and opinions that are relevant to their lives.
Highlights of this year’s program included storytelling with Cree Elder Judy Bear, teaching about the sweat lodge, the importance of ceremony, and stories of how all the different plants and animals of the Earth live together. Two days of nature photography with John Murray, talented nature photographer and ecology educator. A medicinal plant walk and teachings on proper protocol for working with Mother Earths medicine with Daphie Pooyak, traditional Cree and Lakota plant medicine woman and pipe-keeper. And a traditional sweat, which the students participated in all steps of creating with Ray Masuskapoe, drum and rattle maker from Ahtakakoop First Nation. The program cumulated with a trip to Ness Creek Recreational and Ecological Site where the students enjoyed canoeing and kayaking, team-building activities, and working in the permaculture Forest Garden. They also ventured in to solo time which is one of the most beneficial parts of the trips; the students always benefit from the introspection and stillness that they experience alone under the forest canopy.
Lawrence Whiteduck pointing out Rabbit Root to students and teacher at Ness Creek
The deepened trust and friendship that was built between the students and Kjelti this year. This was due to Kjelti spending more quality time with students in between the scheduled sessions with programmers. Kjelti was also better integrated in with the teachers and Elders at Sakewew, again because of more time spent in conversations and as part of the school body in between the core sessions.
By introducing the students to creative visualization and meditation exercises, Kjelti found that the students were able to hold focus for longer during sessions. For example, the students experienced a meditation to visualize their body as a tree before learning about the boreal forest and the native trees of Saskatchewan. The students response was immeditately positive; with so much stimulus at home and at school, introducing the students to the stillness of meditation may help them in other areas of their lives. This was new to this years program and will continue to be a part of the program in the future.
For some of the students, the sweat they participated in with Ray Masuskapoe was their first. For many of the students, it was their first time being responsible for gathering the wood and building the fire to heat the stones. Ray used these as teaching opportunities to explain the importance and reasons for the protocols associated with these preparations. The pride and empowerment felt by the students was very real to see and the group had a greater sense of unity, trust, and friendship after the sweat.
Number of students involved: 30
Number of student hours: 400
Number of Adults involved: 14
Students finding photographic subjects in the fields surrounding their high school in the photography program with John Murray