O'Chiese students and teachers participate in trapper education course

O'Chiese First Nation students recently learned fur trapping skills and earned their Alberta certification.

Principal says culture is a big part of education at O’Chiese First Nation school this year

O’Chiese First Nation students and teachers participate in a trapper’s education course. (Submitted by Charlotte Constant)

O'Chiese First Nation students recently learned fur trapping skills and earned their Alberta certification.

"A huge push at O'Chiese First Nation this year is culture, so we really want to push the students to understand their own culture, being able to participate in land-based activities," said Michelle DeBeer, principal of the school at the First Nation about 150 kilometres west of Edmonton.

"It's extremely important that the students don't lose their culture, and they are not only learning it at home through ceremonies and elders, but also learning it within the school."

The Standard Trapping Course provided by Alberta Trappers Association is designed for first-time trappers and teaches the dos and don'ts of trap setting, fur handling and using snares. 

A total of 12 participants enrolled in the class, including a few teachers.

Two instructors from the association handed out workbooks and did some classroom work before taking students out onto the land. Paying attention was key to learning the basics of trap setting.

Beaver and fox pelts were used in skinning and stretching demonstrations. By the third day, students went to the back of their school into a wooded area where they were able to learn some practical skills in snaring and humane trapping techniques.

A student learns the basics about traps. (Submitted by Charlotte Constant)

Bill Abercrombie, president of the Alberta Trappers Association, said the course is bridging communities in northern Alberta.

The ATA has a provincial mandate to provide training and certification for trappers. The standard trapping course taken at the school is a minimum requirement to get a trapping licence from the Alberta government.

Subsistence trapping is an Indigenous right for the First Nations students but the licence will allow them to sell their furs commercially.

"The students were extremely happy they were receiving a certificate, they had no idea," said DeBeer. 

"They are all looking forward to the next steps with different courses and learning more."

O’Chiese First Nation students participate in skinning and stretching demonstrations as part of the Standard Trapping Course. (Submitted by Charlotte Constant)

Adam Daigneault, a math and science teacher at O'Chiese who is Métis from Île-à-la-Crosse, Sask., participated in the course. 

"It feels great knowing that my certification is recognized right across Canada by all provinces," said Daigneault.

'Sense of honour and pride'

Charlotte Constant, who is Cree from Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba and teaches English and Social Studies at the school, also joined the students in their trapline lessons.

"My dad took us out trapping 30 years ago and we still have and use his traps," she said.

"We're giving the students a sense of honour and pride in what their ancestors were able to do and accomplish."

Trap design is taught in the course with the main concern that it is a fast kill. One trap is light while 20 or more traps are heavier to carry when actual animal trapping.

Constant said trap design is also important for a quick set-up without hurting yourself, especially during cold weather. 

She said understanding the animals are not just fur bearing, but there are different uses for that animal is also important.


Floyd Black Horse

Former reporter, CBC Indigenous

Floyd Black Horse was a CBC Indigenous reporter, Blackfoot from Siksika nation, covering Indigenous stories in Treaty 6, 7 and 8.