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N’Swakamok Alternative School, N’Swakamok Friendship Centre (Sudbury)

The mission of the N’Swakamok Alternative School is to offer a wholistic and culturally inclusive educational program that meets the needs of urban Indigenous students.

Founded in 1990, N’Swakamok Alternative School is housed at the N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre in downtown Sudbury. The program is based on individualized, independent learning courses that students can complete at their own pace. The culturally-based program provides one-to-one tutoring, small and large group instruction with an integration of Indigenous content and traditional ways of teaching and learning. The mission of the N’Swakamok Alternative School is to offer a wholistic and culturally inclusive educational program that meets the needs of urban Indigenous students. The program coordinator, teachers and Friendship Centre staff support all students as they work toward their secondary, post-secondary, career and personal goals.

The N’Swakamok Alternative School is part of an Ontario-wide network of 11 Alternative Secondary Schools supported by the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC). The OFIFC is the largest urban Indigenous service network supporting the vibrant, diverse, and quickly-growing urban Indigenous population through programs and initiatives that span justice, health, family support, long-term care, healing and wellness, employment and training, education, and research. The OFIFC represents the collective interests and vision of its 29-member Friendship Centres, which are hubs of community and gathering spaces where people can connect to their culture, access services and programs and build community.

The vision of the Friendship Centre movement is to improve the quality of life for Indigenous people living in urban environments. Education has always been an integral part of this vision, as access to culturally-safe learning opportunities that center learners’ needs and gifts is key for the wellbeing of urban Indigenous people. The Alternative Secondary School Program was first piloted in 1990, as Friendship Centre communities organized to meet the needs of students and their families, in response to major gaps in mainstream schooling that included lack of safe, culture-based, wholistic education available to Indigenous learners. The program is realized through a partnership between Friendship Centres and their local District School Board, supported by a long-standing relationship between the Ontario Ministry of Education and the OFIFC. As a program dedicated to offering personalized support to Indigenous students within a setting that combines community and academic support, the ASSP reflects Indigenous student needs and delivers education tailored to Indigenous students in an Indigenous environment.

To learn more about this program, please visit https://ofifc.org/program/alternative-secondary-school-program/ and http://www.nfcsudbury.org/nswakamok-alternative-school/.

Wiingashk Alternative Secondary School, N’Amerind Friendship Centre (London)

Wiingashk Alternative Secondary School is located at N’Amerind Friendship Centre in London. This program offers urban Indigenous students a culture-based education that balances the secondary school curriculum with wholistic, culturally relevant educational approaches.

Wiingashk offers opportunities to learn life skills and Indigenous cultural teachings and is designed to help encourage Indigenous students to continue their self-voiced educational goals. The program coordinator and teachers work collaboratively with Friendship Centre staff, specifically Indigenous counsellors and mental health supports, to assist students with their overall well-being, personal goals, and life challenges. 

The Wiingashk Alternative Secondary School is part of an Ontario-wide network of 11 Alternative Secondary Schools supported by the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC). The OFIFC is the largest urban Indigenous service network supporting the vibrant, diverse, and quickly-growing urban Indigenous population through programs and initiatives that span justice, health, family support, long-term care, healing and wellness, employment and training, education, and research. The OFIFC represents the collective interests and vision of its 29-member Friendship Centres, which are hubs of community and gathering spaces where people can connect to their culture, access services and programs and build community.

The vision of the Friendship Centre movement is to improve the quality of life for Indigenous people living in urban environments. Education has always been an integral part of this vision, as access to culturally-safe learning opportunities that center learners’ needs and gifts is key for the wellbeing of urban Indigenous people. The Alternative Secondary School Program was first piloted in 1990, as Friendship Centre communities organized to meet the needs of students and their families, in response to major gaps in mainstream schooling that included lack of safe, culture-based, wholistic education available to Indigenous learners. The program is realized through a partnership between Friendship Centres and their local District School Board, supported by a long-standing relationship between the Ontario Ministry of Education and the OFIFC. As a program dedicated to offering personalized support to Indigenous students within a setting that combines community and academic support, the ASSP reflects Indigenous student needs and delivers education tailored to Indigenous students in an Indigenous environment.

To learn more about this program, please visit https://ofifc.org/program/alternative-secondary-school-program/  and http://www.namerind.on.ca/.

What is Possible in Community? Reflecting on Harvest Days at Sturgeon Lake First Nation

Elder Willie Ermine from Sturgeon Lake First Nation shares about the process of community development and how possibilities like Harvest Days come to fruition in his community.

Elder and ceremonialist, Willie Ermine, from Sturgeon Lake First Nation is the Traditional Health Coordinator at the Lloyd Johnson Memorial Healing Lodge. It is through the Elder’s Council and the work of the Healing Lodge that brings Sturgeon Lake community members together. Ermine discusses the history of his community and shares about the uniqueness of community members. The people are special and it is with the gifts of the people that will determine what is possible. By extracting the memory of the community he hopes that community members will see themselves in the history and will find strength in that knowledge.

Case Study: Sturgeon Lake Traditional Health Program

 

Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings – Part 5 – Dry Scraping the Epidermal Layer

In Part 5 of the series, the Buffalo People Arts Institute demonstrate scraping the epidermal layer of the hide.

This video reveals the physical, mental, and emotional challenges involved in days of scraping a buffalo hide. The endurance of the people scraping reveal a strong mind and strong spirit which help them arrive at the next phase of buffalo hide tanning.

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway and Lorne Kequahtooway are artists and leaders behind the Buffalo People Arts Institute (BPAI). Founded in 2015, BPAI became a non-profit organization whose mission is to share traditional Indigenous teachings and knowledge in order to raise social consciousness and create awareness of the power and strength drawn from blood memory and our connection to the buffalo.

In collaboration with NCCIE and Common Weal, BPAI documents the process of and teachings about buffalo hide tanning. This series of stories entitled, Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings, takes you on a journey of exploring connection to the buffalo while also reflecting on the social and historical realities of the buffalo and the people who rely on its survival.

Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings – Part 6 – Braining a Buffalo Hide

In Part 6 of the series, the Buffalo People Arts Institute demonstrate how to prepare the buffalo hide for braining, how to brain the hide, and how to scrape a brained hide.

This video reveals the physical, mental, and emotional challenges involved in days of scraping a buffalo hide. The endurance of the people scraping reveal a strong mind and strong spirit which help them arrive at the next phase of buffalo hide tanning.

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway and Lorne Kequahtooway are artists and leaders behind the Buffalo People Arts Institute (BPAI). Founded in 2015, BPAI became a non-profit organization whose mission is to share traditional Indigenous teachings and knowledge in order to raise social consciousness and create awareness of the power and strength drawn from blood memory and our connection to the buffalo.

In collaboration with NCCIE and Common Weal, BPAI documents the process of and teachings about buffalo hide tanning. This series of stories entitled, Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings, takes you on a journey of exploring connection to the buffalo while also reflecting on the social and historical realities of the buffalo and the people who rely on its survival.

Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings – Part 7 – Smoking a Buffalo Hide

In Part 7 of the series, the Buffalo People Arts Institute smoke a buffalo hide.

On Day 15 of buffalo hide tanning, the Buffalo People Arts Institute show how to smoke a buffalo hide with punk wood. While sitting around a camp fire they reflect on the process of hide tanning and how they learned the tanning method.

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway and Lorne Kequahtooway are artists and leaders behind the Buffalo People Arts Institute (BPAI). Founded in 2015, BPAI became a non-profit organization whose mission is to share traditional Indigenous teachings and knowledge in order to raise social consciousness and create awareness of the power and strength drawn from blood memory and our connection to the buffalo.

In collaboration with NCCIE and Common Weal, BPAI documents the process of and teachings about buffalo hide tanning. This series of stories entitled, Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings, takes you on a journey of exploring connection to the buffalo while also reflecting on the social and historical realities of the buffalo and the people who rely on its survival.

Empowering Young Men – The Warrior’s Club at Sturgeon Lake Central School

The Warrior’s Club is a land-based education group that meets bi-monthly to learn experientially about the land. 

Tanya McCallum, is one of the land-based instructors at Sturgeon Lake Central School who help leads a Warrior’s Club for Indigenous male youth ages 11-15, she along with Lionel McKenzie. The Warrior’s Club educates youth and encourages them to develop a relationship with the land. Between the skills that they develop and the connections they make, the activities they engage in are meant to empower the next generation of men. The Club meets twice a month and engages in the following activities: camping, snaring, harvesting deadfall from the bush and chopping the wood, fire keeping, fishing, ice fishing, kayaking, canoeing, history lessons, and Cree language instruction.

Recently, the boys received chainsaw and axe safety lessons prior to using the equipment. After that, they were able to harvest the deadfall from the bush, chop the wood, and deliver the chopped wood to Elders and families in the community who were struggling financially. The boys are eager to provide this service to their community and the community members value the youth for their efforts. 

This program has been made possible since 2017 due to the collaboration between Belinda Daniels and her uncle Velmer Ermine, who write up the grants and reports for and through Jordan’s Principle. This is a community collaboration, a ‘grassroots’ initiative between all who all support the program and the youth involved, and a special gratitude to the numerous guest speakers who enrich this program throughout all of the years.

The Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota Oyate

In Lakota ceremonies we pray for good health, happiness, help, and understanding.

Tim Poitras is from Muskowpetung First Nation and is the Sundance Chief of Woptura and the Tiospaye of Pine Ridge South Dakota. At the Regina Elders Gathering held in February 2020, Poitras shares his knowledge and experiences in order to create an awareness of good health, happiness, help, and understanding. In his presentation he discusses the people of the Seven Council Fires, the Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota Oyate, and the Creation Story. The history and knowledge Poitras shares reminds us to honour those that have left us to the spirit world and respect the knowledge and traditions of our people.

At the Regina Elders Gathering held in February 2020, Tim Poitras, from Muskowpetung First Nation, shared about his role in his community and his understanding of Lakota ceremonies. Poitras provides an overview of the Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota Oyate including the following ceremonial rights:

  • Canupa: The Sacred Pipe Ceremony
  • Inipi: The Sweat Lodge;
  • Hanblecha: The Vision Quest
  • Wiwangwacipi: The Sun Dance;
  • Hunkapi: The Making of Relatives; The Keeping of The Soul;
  • Ishna Ta Awi Cha Lowan: Preparing a Girl for Womanhood and a Man for Manhood.

Embracing Indigenous Spirituality

Indigenous scholar, Dr. Blair Stonechild, discusses Indigenous spirituality in his recent publications.

Dr. Blair Stonechild is from Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation and is a professor of Indigenous Studies at First Nations University of Canada. After years of research and a keen interest in Indigenous spirituality and has written two books: The Knowledge Seeker – Embracing Indigenous Spirituality (2016) and Loss of Indigenous Eden and the Fall of Spirituality (2020). These two books have contributed to exposing how Indigenous spirituality has been systematically stolen from Indigenous peoples and helps to establish some of the principles of understanding Indigenous spirituality. Stonechild explains, “if you ever hope to understand Indigenous spirituality you have to understand that we are spiritual beings on a physical journey.”

Teresa McGregor – Anishnawbek Ways of Knowing

“Choices” is an alternative School and General Cultural Programming within Native Friendship Centre and Native Health centres. The goal of the program was to revitalize culture and incorporate Anishnawbek ways.

“Choices” is an alternative School and General Cultural Programming within Native Friendship Centre and Native Health centres. The goal of the program was to revitalize culture and incorporate Anishnawbek ways.