CANADA Summer program introduces Aboriginal customs to Sudbury high school...

Summer program introduces Aboriginal customs to Sudbury high school students


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Mahigan Shawanda, founder of the Great Lakes Cultural Camps, teaches a student how to use a traditional lacrosse stick. (Jonathan Mignot/CBC)

For high school students like Giulia Parento, learning during a global pandemic has been challenging.

“I’m so used to learning while in class, but as a high school student, I find it very stressful. It’s not that fun. I wake up in the morning and don’t want to go to school,” said Parento, who will enter 10th grade at Bishop Alexander Carter Catholic High School in Sudbury, Ontario, in the fall.

But this month, Parento participated in an indigenous cultural camp, which gave her a new reason to get up in the morning and study.

“The last three weeks I have woken up and I have been very excited to come here and excited to learn and try these fun new things, learning these very valuable lessons along the way,” she said.

“It really changed my outlook on learning.”

Two teenage girls posing on the street.

Julia Parento (left) and Jade Prentice participated in cultural camps on the Great Lakes organized by the Sudbury Catholic District School Board. (Jonathan Mignot/CBC)

In their ongoing reconciliation efforts, the Sudbury Catholic District School Board partnered with an organization called the Great Lakes Cultural Camps to offer a summer program.

I don’t think I would have done it if it wasn’t for this program. I think, to be honest, I would sit at home all day playing games.– Jayden Toulouse

Ginette Toivenen, school board leader for indigenous education, said she learned about the program through the Algoma County School Board, which also worked with Great Lakes Cultural Camps.

“I just paid attention and realized that this is something amazing that we can offer our students,” said Toivenen.

People stand next to a table on which venison lies.

Nudin Shavanda (left) teaches students how to handle a deer. Shawanda works as an instructor at the Great Lakes Cultural Camps where they teach traditional indigenous customs. (Jonathan Mignot/CBC)

For the past three weeks, high school students have been visiting the Atikameksheng Anishnaubek Aboriginal people near Sudbury to learn about various traditional methods, such as identifying plants with medicinal properties and processing deer.

Jayden Toulouse, an 11th grade student at St. Charles’ College, Sudbury, said he first learned to canoe at camp.

“I don’t think I would be doing this if it wasn’t for this program,” Toulouse said. “I think, to be honest, I would sit at home all day and play games.”

A woman stands outside wearing a T-shirt that says

Jennifer Petachtegus is an instructor at St. Charles College in Sudbury and a ground instructor for the Great Lakes Cultural Camp Summer Program. (Jonathan Mignot/CBC)

Jennifer Petachtegus, who teaches at St. Charles College and was a summer program instructor, said it was great to see her students interact with the earth.

“I am also from Atikameksheng Anishnaubek and this is a really special place for me,” she said.

“The fact that my students that I have during the school year come out and then kids from other high schools come out and get credit is amazing.”

Petahtegus said the program helps answer many of the calls to action from Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

“I feel like we’re doing some of that work by being here, connecting children to their land, sharing with them some of the language we know,” she said.

“We are still secondary students, but we are trying to share with children. They are very lucky, very lucky to have two elders here with them. One of them is fluent. big.”

Jonathan Mignot of the CBC at a meeting with some students and teachers at the new Sudbury Catholic District School Board summer camp. The camp introduces high school students to the culture of indigenous peoples and their traditional customs.

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