This is Philip Brass. He grew up as a hunter and fisherman – skills taught to him by his late father. Since the age of 14 he was involved with ceremony in some of the traditional lodges in his region. Philip has done a multitude of land-based activities – as well as in-class teachings – with youth and has become synonymous with “Learning from the Land” programs. In 2014, he started his unique line of work with his band, Peepeekisis Cree Nation, as the Community Wellness Coordinator at the Health Centre. His goal at the time was to reach out and connect with the youth, as there were issues regarding gang activity, violence and vandalism. He offered to go hunting with some of the youth as a way to connect with those that were tough to reach, and eventually he introduced them to ceremony. Getting the youth involved in traditional values and practices resulted in a positive ripple effect throughout the community. His work with the youth continued with the File Hills Police Service and then working within the schools on-reserve and off-reserve in nearby towns. He has also done work with the Prairie Valley School Division and Treaty 4 Education Alliance.
Some examples of activities for youth Philip has lead are: fishing; filleting workshops; hunting big game; hunting small game; talking circles; sweats; and attending ceremonies in the communities. He has been a valuable resource for teachers that are having difficulty navigating issues on reconciliation, history of colonialism, on-going Indigenous struggles with Canada and the province.
Philip has witnessed how the land can be a powerful tool for learning, engaging, and shifting negative behavioural patterns in youth. Philip advocates that land-based activities are memorable experiences that can plant a seed to propagate relationships with the landscape and the ecosystem. He believes the land is education. Philip also infers that for Indigenous people to reconnect with their languages, land-based activities are essential because languages are emergent from those activities, and gives language relevance.