Feb 10, 2020
Indigenous people across Canada are familiar with colonization and its lingering impact on our social and economic well-being. As Matthew Wildcat and others (2014) remind us, “if colonization is fundamentally about dispossessing Indigenous peoples from land, decolonization must involve forms of education that reconnect Indigenous peoples to land and the social relations, knowledges and languages that arise from the land.”
Observing our world in realer than real environmental distress is no joke. We are part of a universal web of existence; we are not greater than the land. Yet the devastating effects of our modern lifestyles are causing great destruction and divide in our world today. My Nookum always tells us “We need Mother Earth, she doesn’t need us. Who knows when she will lift her skirts and shake us off?”
As a SUNTEP graduate, educator, mother and a concerned human, I believe a direct relationship with the land gives us a true understanding of our place and purpose on Mother Earth.
Indigenous stories, identity and worldviews are all tied to the land so our relationship with it means taking our responsibility of stewardship seriously. From the classrooms and urban centers to on-reserve communities across Canada, Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) graduates are facilitating amazing land based experiences for citizens and students alike.
It is very exciting to see GDI taking a lead in promoting land-based education through its programs. The Northern Saskatchewan Indigenous Teacher Education Program (NSITEP), offered by GDI in La Ronge in partnership with the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and the University of Regina, is an excellent example of how Land-based education honours the relationship Indigenous peoples have with the land.
Land-based pedagogy is the progressive teacher that will provide us the tools to build healthy communities with sustainable futures. How can we better teach empathy? Instil responsibility and be examples of honorable human reciprocation? History? Survival skills? Land-based education offers higher levels of thinking not always found in traditional Western education. From harvesting plant medicines, to gardening and learning to track animals, there is a plethora of lessons to take from every season. There are no textbooks; instead we learn to read the land with our senses.
Life on the land is also daily ceremony. It connects us to our ancestors, develops strong communities and nourishes the interrelationship between the land and us. Indigenous ways of knowing are revitalized and passed down as the Elders and youth are able to bond over stories of language) term ‘wahkotowin’ is a word that is used to describe kinship as well as our relationship with natural systems of law.
We learn to be humble in knowing that as humans, our lives depend on other living things to survive. This also enables each of us to grow as a person. We are able to achieve mastery at different skill levels, feel a sense of belonging in groups and develop as leaders and protectors of our lands.
This year, I invite you to journey with me and the GDI Communicator as we explore the landscapes, Indigenous ways of knowing and stories of Saskatchewan. We will take a closer look at identifying traditional plant medicines, share recipes and beautiful photos. This ancient love and wisdom is the very medicine that will guide us to take action to grow and heal with Mother Earth. Ekoshi
Mandi Reigh Elles holds a bachelor of education degree from SUNTEP Regina. She is a teacher in the Regina Public School Division
By Mandi Reigh Elles