This website is about Sophie Thomas, a respected Dakelh elder (Carrier Nation in the northern interior of BC) and traditional healer who was dedicated to teaching others about the traditional ways of using plants to heal. She has spoken at elementary schools, high schools, post-secondary institutions, and international conferences sharing her knowledge of herbs and advocating for the preservation of environment. The site contains descriptions of her book ‘Plants and Medicines’ and video ‘ The Warmth of Love, the 4 Seasons’. Sophie was to receive an honorary degree from the University of British Columbia in May 2010 but passed away in her 80s in March 2010.
In recognition of the fact that I know little about the First Nations peoples in my area of Quesnel, BC, I decided to do some research focused on the local area and found some resources that I think others might find useful:
http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/map.htm – This site has a map of BC showing a current representation of First Nations territories in BC and a table containing the peoples’ names, names used in the past, and language families.
http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/data/lss/abor/ap_index.asp – BC Stats web page ‘Aboriginal Peoples of British Columbia’ which provides many links to pages and documents regarding labor characteristics and soci0-economic conditions of Aboriginal peoples in British Columbia.
Indian Control of Indian Education was the first collaborative document published by Aboriginal peoples in Canada, outlining the specific requirements that Aboriginal communities across Canada believed to be imperative in providing successfully educational environments for Aboriginal children in Canada.
It was written by the National Brotherhood and the First Nations Assembly as a reaction to the white paper published by the Canadian government.
This document, published in ’72, does an excellent job of outlining the issues to consider when working with Aboriginal populations. While some of the issues in this paper have been addressed by our educational institutions, many continue to go unanswered, ignored, or have been pulled from schools as a result of funding cuts.
What I find particularly powerful about this document is that it is a collaborative effort. Many of the Aborignal groups from east to west coast of Canada took part in drafting this document.
Forests & Oceans for the Future is a research group based at UBC that collaborates with North Coast BC communities to conduct ecological research. One of their key activities is to design educational materials suitable for use in BC K-12 classrooms and give curricular alignments, they appear to be well suited for high school classes. There are seven detailed and informative unit plans that cover topics of TEK and Western science comparison, traditional plant knowledge, resource use, forestry, regional identity, and climate change. (This is also the research group that produced the ‘Return to Gitzaala’ video)
Indigenous tribes in Canada have a long history of oral tradition and most often did not have a traditional written language. Considering our discussions this week about the goals of Aboriginal Education versus the euro-centric mainstream and the struggles of Aboriginal children to relate to westernized instruction methods, perhaps it is no surprise that Aboriginal literacy rates in Canada are often lower than non-Aboriginal literacy rates. Compounding struggles for literacy is the fact that neither provincial nor federal library funding extends to Aboriginal reserve lands. Realizing the importance of literacy, First Nations in BC have begun to found private libraries on Reserve land. The first on-reserve library in British Columbia was opened in 2007 on Haida Gwaii, and more recently the Thistalalh Memorial Library opened it’s doors to the coastal community of Bella Bella. As a place for stories, oral traditions, games, family time and more, Libraries may become a more common feature of Reserve communities.
Located on the Adams Lake Band reseve in the Sepwepemc Nation, BC, Chief Atahm School is a parent-run language immersion school and educational program. The program began in 1987 as a language nest modeled in the Maori style of “Te Kohanga Reo” by a group of parents hoping to stem the loss of the Sepwepemc language. Since that time, their program has grown into an internationally celebrated example of successful tribally controlled education. Their Vision Statement reflects a deep respect for the values and traditions of the Sepwepemc.
The school provides full immersion from nursery through grade three, partial immersion for grades four through nine, and adult language courses. As the success of their program has become evident through the students that progress through the school and the revitalization of the Sepwepemc language, they also provide yearly Teacher Training institutes and adaptable curriculum development tools. Building on a tradition of continuing refinement of their programming, Chief Atahm School holds an annual language conference that is well attended by language activists, teachers, and enthusiasts.
Dustin Rivers is a young language revitalization activist of the Squamish Nation. He does not profess to be a language expert or even fluent in the language he is helping to teach, but he saw a chance to promote the revival of his language through engaging his community (noting that “Social Media is just the beginning!”). Launched on November 17, 2010, Dustin’s website SquamishLanguage.com has served to promote language classes in the Squamish Valley, discuss the basic tenets and importance of language immersion around the home, promote two podcasts (one relating to language lessons and one relating to cultural icons, knowledge keepers, and leaders), study scripts for “word-of-the-day” posts, invite community members to play traditional games and language-fluency games, and more.
It is also notable that this initiative is not (yet?) officially sanctioned by the Squamish Nation, nor does it have any financial sponsorship. This website serves as an example of how one Aboriginal youth is successfully initiating a grass-roots revival of his heritage language, using social media as a distribution platform. The Na Tkwi Sníchim podcast is especially relevant for language enthusiasts looking for a model to base their own language initiatives around.
The celebration of this successful language initiative to date is heartening and worth keeping track of.
The First Nations Technology Council (FNTC) maintains a website that supports the integration of technologies intended to improve the quality of life for all British Columbia First Nations. The mandate of the FNTC is to develop a First Nations Technology Plan to ensure the 203 BC First Nations are connected with high speed broadband, have access to affordable, qualified technical support and, have the skills needed to access technologies that can improve their lives.
The website has a menu with links to many resources including a Community Applications section where First Nation projects are highlighted and a link through the First Nations BC Portal to the First Nations in British Columbia website.
Even if you’re not from British Columbia, I’m sure that aboriginal education in the UBC region will be of interest to you. The government of British Columbia tracks their support of aboriginal data with qualitative reports, which I found interesting. Obviously any government website will be political in nature, but I’m sure there are a number of important items to be extracted from this informative website.