Susa Creek School students participate in pilot education program
Posted on April 3
Susa Creek School students participated in a pilot education program delivered by the Palisades Stewardship Education Centre in March. The Teachings of the Mountain People education program involved two days of experiential learning and is rooted in the human history of Jasper National Park and attempts to connect students to a story of reconciliation.
“The Teachings of the Mountain People program attempts to tell the story of the history of the fur trade as it relates to Jasper House; explores the concept of identity by appreciating how local Indigenous communities relate to land and; promotes an understanding of the mountain environment by considering land-based practices and traditional ecological knowledge,” said Barb Schmidt, Education lead, Palisades Stewardship Education Centre. “It recognizes the six homesteading families who reluctantly and sorrowfully left Jasper National Park when it was formed. A local knowledge keeper assists with the delivery of this program.”
Many students involved in the activities are descendants of the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation (AWN). AWN represents six Indigenous communities in the Grande Cache area including the Susa Creek Cooperative. On day one, students participated in an Iroquois game called snow snakes. The game was introduced by Iroquois Voyageurs who moved west with the fur trade. The game objective is to throw a flattened snake piece through a snow path at a really fast speed. The farther the snow snake goes the better.
In the evening, a mountain mingle activity was developed to educate students about the history of Jasper House http://tinyurl.com/z9lvvbu. Susa Creek School Teacher Jaeda Feddema says students wore outfits and name tags of persons and ancestors connected to Jasper House. Once in character, she says students mingled and interviewed each other to see how they’re connected. In the 19th century, Jasper House was associated with two different fur trading posts and served as a meeting place for Indigenous peoples, explorers, missionaries, surveyors and homesteaders journeying through the Athabasca and Yellowhead passes.
On day two, students visited the old homestead of Ewan and Madeline Moberly. The visit is an example of students connecting to the Moberly family; a name very much associated with Aseniwuche Winewak Nation and Susa Creek families https://www.aseniwuche.ca/moberly. While visiting the homestead, they observed a gravesite and learned how to make a travois; a sled used to carry goods. Throughout the two-day program, the Susa Creek community provided valuable input about the experience and how the program could improve moving forward.
“Our students know quite a few Cree songs so they shared that with parks staff [Parks Canada Education team],” said Feddema.
“While the program is targeted at grade seven students and tied to the Social Studies program of studies, the theme of reconciliation and acknowledgement is relevant learning for all students,” said Schmidt. “The Susa Creek School group appreciated the Parks Canada invitation to bring their youth, teachers, community members and an Elder to the centre. The teacher who organized the trip recognized that in return, the Parks Canada team learned firsthand from the Susa Creek community members and Elder.”
The Teachings of the Mountain People education program will be available to school groups at the Palisades Stewardship Education Centre starting in the fall of 2017.
In 2014, Lisa Shepherd (a descendant with ancestral ties to one of Jasper’s early homesteading families- Swift) was hired. She was tasked with conducting interviews with members of the three Indigenous groups involved with the project, gathering traditional and historical knowledge. Involved in the program’s creation are members of the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation (AWN), Upper Athabasca Valley Elders Council and Kelly Lake Métis, three groups with historic ties to the Jasper Valley. The contractor conducted historical research and interviewed Indigenous partners, which a key part was the inclusion of Elders. The Parks Canada Education team and the seconded teacher from Grande Yellowhead Public School Division Barb Schmidt are tasked with development of The Teachings of the Mountain People education program and are interested in ongoing relationship building and community engagement with Indigenous communities.
Barb Schmidt worked with the Alberta Regional Learning Consortium to develop a plan for The Teachings of the Mountain People education program. As part of that work, 20 grade seven Social Studies teachers from the Edmonton area came to the Palisades to participate in professional development and investigate Teachings of the Mountain People education program.