Yukon teachers meet Indigenous elders at healing camp
New curriculum emphasizes Indigenous 'ways of knowing,' says education department
Yukon teachers got a chance to meet Indigenous elders this week at the Jackson Lake Healing Camp outside Whitehorse.
The Yukon Department of Education has been trying to integrate Indigenous cultures into the territory's classrooms.
It's a welcome idea said Dorothy Smith, a Kaska elder from Ross River, who was helping to prepare salmon and bannock between answering questions.
"It's about teaching our culture, teaching some of our ways to some of the new teachers that are coming on," she said.
New curriculum design in Yukon
Betty Burns is the education department's primary curriculum consultant for kindergarten to Grade 3.
She says the territory is continuing to work on new curriculum.
"We're here introducing the whole idea of First Nations ways of knowing and doing as an essential part of the curriculum redesign," she said.
'I think we're getting there' says elder
David Johnny Sr., an elder with the White River First Nation, was cutting salmon and showing how incisions are made to prepare fish for smoking and drying.
He also showed teachers a fishnet made of willow bark — something he learned how to make from his grandfather.
Johnny calls the camp a sign of progress and reconciliation. He says local history and culture wasn't taught when he was a student.
We were learning about the Romans and Napoleon running around in Europe and all that stuff — we never learned about ourselves. - David Johnny Sr, elder with the White River First Nation
"I think we're getting there," he said.
"That was a problem before the First Nations started adding their curriculum to the schools. We were learning about the Romans and Napoleon running around in Europe and all that stuff — we never learned about ourselves."
Traditional teas and a local plant walk
Marion Primozic, a member of the Champagne Aishihik First Nations, helped guide teachers on a walk. She discussed the traditional use of plants such as balsam fir, which she used to make tea with rosehip, and what she called "caribou weed."
She hopes schools will do more to promote hands-on learning and incorporate Indigenous culture.
"A lot of our First Nations people are losing this and our kids aren't learning it," she said.
Integration of subjects and learning outdoors
The Yukon First Nations New Teacher Orientation program was made available this year to all new teachers and administrators.
Some at the workshop are new to Yukon. Others have years of experience already.
Sarah Aasman has more than a decade of experience working as a substitute teacher, but attended the workshop because she's starting as a full-time contracted teacher in Grade 2 at Christ the King Elementary in Whitehorse.
"I like how [the new curriculum] is allowing us to be more project-based and experiential," she said. "There's integration between the subjects rather than having the subjects be separate. We can mix the science and First Nations [content] and math and do more integrative projects."