Today has just been a great day to ponder on what the last three months have been like and needless to say 🙂 they have been rich and rewarding. Many events led up to the First Nations, Metis and Inuit Learning and Leadership Camp at Tim Horton Leadership Camp in Parry Sound on March 9-12. I am starting with the camp because it was the most compelling experience of the year. It rocked 🙂 My colleague and I chaperoned a group of students and we couldn’t have anticipated how amazing the experience would be. The students were thrilled about the experience and didn’t know what to expect so anticipation along with excitement made for happy teens 🙂 I made new friends, learned new skills and I’m very excited to continue a culture of inclusiveness at SMHS. What I observed mostly was that First Nation students who are in tune with their culture were very confident and outgoing and held a certain reverence for the elders. The first evening at the camp was particularly poignant listening to Cody McGregor and Lee Benson with their contemporary Aboriginal Music. Their openness set the tone for the rest of the week, as they were breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes on Type 2 diabetes and other social challenges using hip hop and other contemporary music.
Day 2 : What is your bundle?
Frankie Misner from the Social Work Services at Laurentian led the students through an exercise about “What is in your bundle” – that describes you to others. There would be follow up relating to “Opening your bundle” and at the end of the conference the students were each presented with a bag signifying their bundle. The students were encouraged to continue this exercise accumulating items that represent their culture.
Terry Sahanatien and his grandson from the Wahta Mohawk Territory shared very compelling stories and singing and dance. It was very vivid and breathtaking – filled with humour and life lessons. He spoke of story telling and teaching of the language and culture in the Longhouse 🙂 I still visualize the students enthralled with the composure of these two men, sharing stories with so much conviction. I captured this feeling of reverence on my way back after the story-telling, feeling an incredible sense of calm and humility.
Medicine Wheel Teachings: Walking in Balance with Janice St Germaine and her daughter, Christine King whose Anishinaabe name is Waubkuniikwe. This was a very compelling presentation on the Medicine Wheel and wonderful drumming and singing by Christine. This very fresh approach to the Grandfather Teachings appealed to the students who were interestingly left questioning themselves on whether they have clan names or spirit names. The evening ended with spiritual, social entertainment by Wahta Singers. I have since spoken to my students and what stood out mostly for them was the Wahta Singers.
Thank you Senator Verna Porter-Brunelle from Metis Nation of Ontario and Elder Hector Copegog for your greetings at the opening of the conference and your well wishes at the end. A huge shout out to the Ministry of Education (Student Success/Student Achievement Team). Melissa Weyland, Education Officer – Student Success Implementation Branch, Joanne Leung – Senior Policy Advisor, Research Evaluation and Capacity Building Branch and Tom Steele, Student Success Education Officer from the North Bay and Sudbury office. Your assuring presence throughout the conference instilled in the students a sense of good leadership. Creating awareness, promoting student voice and breaking barriers at grassroots level! Wow! Thank you also to the Tim Horton Memorial Camp in Parry Sound, Ontario. You guys were awesome! High fives for all the leadership skills you and your staff portrayed – conscientiously leading by example.
What a memorable experience for me and my students who benefited greatly from the conference. Super pumped to engage with them next week as we plan strategies on how to break the barriers as we strive for equity and inclusion.