I am extremely fortunate to work within the traditional territory of the Witsuwit’en Nation. A nation who has been fighting for the birthrights of their people since colonialism first pushed its way into their lands. The Witsusit’en have stood strong on their territory, and were partners in the Delgamuukw & Gisdaywa case that gave First People across Canada the ability to use oral histories as evidence in Canadian courts. It also meant that businesses and government must now consult with chiefs who represent their houses before taking any resources from their lands. Because I am here I have access to some amazing resources that help me bring to life the history and culture of First Nations people in general, and Witsuwit’en people specifically. Due to the active participation of the Witsuwit’em people, our schools have a fantastic collection of resources that help to give voice to First Nations culture and history. So I would like to begin this blog by introducing you to a few of the resources that I commonly use. In this way you will be able to preview and perhaps purchase some of these pieces for your own use. This will be a multipost piece. I look forward to hearing about some resources you recommend as well.
The Ways of Our Ancestors
This is a textbook written by Melanie H. Morin in partnership with the Witsuwit’en people. It moves through history, language, the clan system and so much more. This is a powerful resource for anyone looking to add First Peoples content into their practice in a meaningful way.
There are a number of special features in this book, but my favorite has to be, “What Our Elders Say”. These excerpts from elders in the Wetsuwit’en nation always add to the content being investigated in a thoughtful story telling way. It reminds the reader that the culture of the people is still very much alive, while at the same time showing the proper deference to the keepers of history.
Another popular feature are the small, “Did You Know” bubbles founds throughout the pages. They give bite sized pieces of information that feel like a friend taking you aside to tell you something fascinating. I have found that students are often led to larger investigation through these little attention grabbers.
This book is packed full of wonderful learning opportunities. Maps, charts, beautiful historic images, vocab boxes, and traditional stories just to name a few features. Yet it is very approachable and can be used in any grade depending on the structure of the lesson. I cannot recommend this book enough! I will be posting a number of lesson ideas in upcoming blogs that center around this textbook. Please contact the Aboriginal Education office at 1-250-847-5517 if you are interested in purchasing a copy for you or your school.
2) The next resource I find myself using time and again are the historic videos our district has linked on our Learner Support page. Each of the short videos looks at a different aspect of Witsuwit’en culture and history. What makes it incredible unique is that they are an amalgamation of original footage shot by Harlan Smith, a student of Franz Boaz, voice overs by Tyler McCreary while creating a PHD project, and a number of the Witsuwit’en elders. It is amazing to see the original piece made by the Canadian Museum in 1929 be used reculturate to tell the story of the Witsuwit’en people. Its title claims to be the “Carrier Indians of British Columbia”, however, this is a misnomer. I highly recommend these clips and as with all resources posted here, I will include lesson ideas in later blogs. These videos are a must see!
3) First Nations 101 Lynda Gray
This is an incredible book for people who are looking to give themselves an overview of First nations culture, without falling prey to pan Indianism. If you are uncertain of the meaning of that word, this is the book for you! With a sense of humour and great style Lynda Gray covers subject areas you will inevitably run into if you are teaching any First Peoples curriculum. Do yourself a favour, get this manageable book and read it cover to cover. Then keep it at arms reach so you can refer to it time and again.
This is my short list for today! I cannot wait to share the rest of my go-to resources tomorrow.
Make each moment count.