Hello again loyal blog followers,
We are sad to say that it is our last blog post here in Fort Good Hope! We have had an amazing week, filled with opportunities to both teach and learn. We spent the first part of the week teaching about healthy relationships, consent, stress, anxiety and nutrition.
A lot of the students have asked us about stress and anxiety, and other community members have placed emphasis on teaching youth how to recognize and cope with their feelings and emotions, which is why this was a focus for us this week. One of our stress activities involved blindfolding a student, and having them walk through a “maze” of papers, unable to step on the paper. The rest of their class had to shout directions at them – with one side of the room shouting right directions, and the other side shouting wrong directions. We then asked the class how the activity made them feel. It was supposed to stimulate a stressful situation, and how stress can make it difficult for us to think clearly. This is one example of how we incorporate activities and discussions into our peer-to-peer lessons.
On Tuesday, we held a cooking class to expose students in grades 3-6 to new foods. We divided them into groups and had them measure out spices, cut up vegetables and shred cheese for Taco Tuesday. We had a ton of students show up, and the rest of the week they were asking us when our next class would be! It was so great to receive feedback that the students were enjoying our programming. We know next year they’ll have to do more cooking with these students, because they were such pros in the kitchen!
We also were lucky enough to go on a boat ride with our friend Leon, and his son, Leon Jr. They took us south over the Rampart Rapids, and into where the mouth of the river widens. The Mackenzie river is the longest river in Canada, and is so wide at some parts that to us, it looks like a small lake. The Mackenzie is also lined with stunning cliffs that drop off into the water. Next, they took us northeast to Rabbit Skin, an area with crystal clear, still water, where all the locals go hunting and fishing. We are so grateful to have made friends that want to share their legends and stories about the land with us.
We also spent some time at the On the Land Camp on Wednesday after school, hanging out with community members. The camp is running for 10 days, and youth and Elders stay over night in the tents, participating in traditional activities, as well as just having fun! The camp has about 10 large “Wall Tents” made out of logs, rope and canvas. Inside the tents are iron stoves which keep them nice and warm through the night!
One of the Elders, Denise, is making John a pair of moccasins from scratch out of moose hide and beaver fur. It is incredible to watch her work. We also got to spend some time with students outside of class, which is a great opportunity for getting to know them a bit better. The boys brought a make shift basketball net with them, and also made a big fort out of brush!
On Friday was the Territorial Culture and Heritage Fair. This is similar to a science fair, with students setting up poster boards and explaining their projects to Judges. All projects relate somehow to that student’s culture. We saw projects on Ethiopia, the Vietnam War, Traditional Medicine, Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights), Tilcho Culture and Clothing, and different land acts in Canada. All students reflected on the importance of their projects to their identity. These were students who had made it to the provincial competition, so they were all incredibly smart and impressive!
On Saturday, we bussed back out to the Camp at Rabbit Skin, where all the students from the heritage fair were participating in cultural activities for the day. The students introduced themselves to the Elders, and heard their stories. In the Dene Culture, passing traditional knowledge down from Elders is one of their laws to live by, since Elders have the most experience and wisdom. The students were also taught to pluck the feathers off ducks, and singe them. Singeing a duck involves laying it over the fire so that the remaining feathers are mostly burned off, and then taking a knife to scrape the feathers left over. We were then shown how to properly cut and prepare a duck before cooking it. The students were also shown how to make bannock, a traditional bread dish, and how to catch, gut, and prepare fish. It was a busy day filled with learning, and the kids really loved participating, as did we!
We can’t believe it’s already been 4 weeks in this welcoming town. We are excited to say we have confirmed support for our partnership with Fort Good Hope to continue next year, and can’t wait to provide the same amazing opportunity to become immersed in Dene culture to other Queen’s students, and for them to provide peer to peer health education in return. We will be spending the next couple days saying our good byes and reflecting on our experience. Thanks to everyone who supported us on this expansion, and as promised, here’s one last dog picture.
Signing out for the last time,
Megan and John