A book publishing project helped school children connect with Elders


​Students from the Northland School Division (NSD) in Alberta had a unique opportunity to participate in the creation of a book called Finding Fire Within By Reconnecting with the Land.

The book was a collaboration of the entire K-12 school division. The division is in Treaty Six and Treaty Eight territories. It covers 288,347 km² of land, which includes diverse landscapes, with mountains, lakes, rivers, forests and wetlands.

The various schools in the region are located in municipalities, regions and First Nations and Métis settlements. Approximately 95% of the student population is Aboriginal.

The project grew out of a partnership between Cenovus Energy and NSD to create opportunities for students to reconnect with their heritage. Cenovus provided the financing for the project while NSD created the outline.

“I think what we really wanted to do was help students connect with their culture and connect with the Elders so they could gain some of that wisdom and experience shared with the Elders of community,” said Karen Davies, Principal of Elizabeth School. in the 2021-2022 school year. “Also, we wanted them to have a purpose in their writing. It was a project that they were really excited about because at the end of it they knew they were going to tell important stories in their own words and they were going to be published in a book and so they were very excited about it. ”

Davies said a task force has been created with representatives from each school in the division. From there, they created the idea of ​​what the project would look like, but allowed each school and class to independently choose how the project would be done.

“Each school had a bit of leeway. We didn’t really set any parameters…basically what we wanted to do was work with the Elders,” she said.

“We interviewed them, talked to them, worked with them to learn more about their lives and their stories. And then the students rewrote their stories in their own words and illustrated, drew pictures or colored pictures of the stories as well, and then we were able to publish them.

Steven Big Charles, a Grade 6 student at Hillview School, said last year, when he was in Grade 5, that he contributed to the book and really enjoyed hearing the Elders’ stories.

Seniors George and Dorothy Bellerose spoke to his class and told them about their journey across the provinces, starting a new life in northern Alberta, and how different life was without today’s technology. today.

Big Charles was one of the students who drew a picture that matched the class story.

“I made drawings. The one with the four horse teams when they just moved to East Prairie,” said Big Charles, adding that he loves to draw when he can and his favorite thing to draw are birds.

“It was the first time I met them (the Elders). It was a great story. When they moved they had to pack up all their stuff and they had to buy a horse and cart. I thought it must have been hard to live back then.

Another student who contributed to the history of the class was Karma L’Hirondelle, who is the Bellerose’s granddaughter.

She explained that she had to listen to their stories and then her job would be to go back to her classmates and tell them the stories she had heard. The class would then rewrite the story in their own words.

In many schools, the project was part of the curriculum for some classes, but in others it was sent out to the student body for anyone interested in participating.

“We wanted people to light that fire within themselves about their culture, to be excited about their culture, the traditional customs (of indigenous people) and the genre they come from. Looking at the path and making those connections to the future,” Davies said.

Each of the Elders and those who contributed to the book received a copy when they returned to school this year.

Davies said NSD received a lot of positive feedback on the book and sales on Amazon.ca really took off. The book can be purchased here.

“It’s important for kids to have an audience, so it’s really great that we were able to produce something like this so they can see their work and other people can read it,” she said. declared.


By Crystal St. Pierre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com


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