Dec 2, 2015
Posted in: Uncategorized
By Lorrie Desjarlais
In the traditional Métis homeland, the young were often initiated into the norms of the society through two main ways. One, oral traditions, in which past experiences, beliefs, ways of knowing, and expectations for the future were passed on to the younger generation by word of mouth, often in the form of stories; and two, a method of learning by doing in which a younger ‘apprentice’ was trained and mentored by a more experienced person in whatever sector of the community’s socioeconomic wellbeing. This included hunting, fishing, trade and commerce, medicine, childcare and inter-personal relations, etc. In most cases, the two methods, namely, oral traditions and hands-on learning were used simultaneously.
Today, most educators agree that acquiring knowledge, skills, and expertise by doing things (as opposed to, for example, the passive student who sits silently and listens and take in everything from the ‘all-knowing’ and powerful teacher) is an effective method of learning. Through hands-on or experiential learning, one has the opportunity to learn from his or her mistakes, consequences of one’s decisions and actions, as well as rewards or achievements for the learning process. Plus, the method calls for self-initiative, motivation, and assessment. Such a learner-centred approach regards the learner as a co-creator of knowledge even though he/she learns from the more experienced teacher.
This fall, Dumont Technical Institute ABE level 3 & Adult 12 students in Ile a la Crosse visited the nearby Rossignol School Wilderness site for their annual classroom in the wilderness experience. Local Elders, Vianny Laliberte, Tony Laliberte, and Eva and Jack McCallum, were also in attendance. Intriguing, educational, motivational, cultural and inspiring would be the few words to describe the cultural camp experience.
As young Métis people, this camp enabled the students to learn and bring back some of our traditional learnings and teachings. We have learned how to make and prepare deer meat, fish, ducks, and meetswapi (a traditional Metis blueberry dessert). We have also learned how to make beaded poppies for this year’s Remembrance Day.
Many students got to learn the important role of Elders in the community and how to relate with and learn from the Elders. We listened to the Michif/Cree language being spoken from our Elders during their teachings. As students, we are slowly recognizing the importance of language and the gifts it brings, such as identity, self-esteem, and pride in one’s heritage. Personally, I love having the privilege of going to culture camp. I love learning about my culture and enjoy bringing the knowledge that I’ve learnt back to my family.
The students had several positive comments regarding their experience at the wilderness site. These included: “Culture camp is a place where I like to learn about our traditional Native medicines and how they work” (Cyril Laliberte); “The Culture camp is a great place to be and learn different activities such as how to make bannock. This is a wonderful place to be and learn how to work and do various activities” Janet Desjarlais. Jessica Daigneault stated that “I love going to the wilderness camp, I really enjoy going out there to learn about our culture and enjoying the wilderness.”
Jenna Daigneault stated that, “I enjoyed going back to the culture camp as an adult learner. I use to go there when I was younger, but this time, Elder Eva McCallum taught us how to bead, my classmate Clara Daigneault showed us how to make fish over a fire, and Elders Vianny and Tony showed the boys how to cut wood and split it. At the end of the day, we closed the day with a prayer from Tony and then thanked the Elders.”
All the students enjoyed being in the wild, learning by doing from the Elders, and the fact that they found what they learned relevant, and engaging.