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Land-based education teaches White Bear First Nation kids survival skills

Students at White Bear Education Complex are taken out of the classroom and placed out on the land where they learn and gaining survival skills. Taya Lavallee/White Bear Education Student

Students at the White Bear First Nation are being given the opportunity to know what it was like to live off the land. Land-based education programming was introduced to the southeastern Saskatchewan reserve located near north of Carlyle.

Educator Garrick Schmidt says it’s important to keep Indigenous traditions alive.

“Our goal is to revitalize traditions that may have been lost, teaching that may be have been lost and hunting and gathering is sometimes one of them,” he said.

“They are learning to be independent. They are learning how successfully and humanely harvest an animal. They are learning team-building skills on how to be a community.”

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Some of the basic skills the students are learning range from tipi-raising, canoeing, hunting, preparing the meat and picking medicines. Schmidt says these types of skills are essential for anyone to know in order to survive off the land.

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“There’s a big communication piece that ties into that as well whether it’s setting up the tipi, canoeing, picking up medicines and pretty much anything that we’re doing on the land,” said Schmidt. “We’re able to translate that and they’re able to make those connections from the land into the classroom settings.”

Read more: Land-based learning links curriculum with Indigenous culture

Schmidt, along with a few staff members, took 22 students out to Moose Mountain Provincial Park on Sept. 27 for a few days. On the second day, Schmidt and a few students successfully hunted a bull moose utilizing the teachings they learned.

“We learned how to connect. We learned teamwork. Teamwork was the main thing,” said student Leslie Lonethunder, who called the moose in.

“Just learning how to live like back in the day when our ancestors were here, we got a chance to experience a little bit of it.”

Lonethunder hopes this program continues at his school for years to come.

“It’s something that we always wanted to see in the school for many many years,” Lonethunder said. “It’s something that should be in every school. Learning the land was the way we came about.”

Schmidt is planning for a few more camps this month and in November to teach students how to trap and live off the land in the winter months.

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