Northern Youth Experience Culture through Canoeing and Storytelling

Northern Youth Experience Culture through Canoeing and Storytelling

July 3, 2020

Some students from St. Pascal Community School are listening to stories about Indigenous culture and language through canoeing and storytelling thanks to funding from the Cameco Creative Kids Northern Cultural Fund.

The project, called sipa acahkos ayatohkan, which in Cree means “Stories under the Stars” involved going out onto the water, paddling, singing songs, eating and then listening to local storytellers share stories about the community and Indigenous cultures and experiences. The students were taken on two trips – one in June 2019 and another in October 2019.

Jordan Kolbeck, principal, St. Pascal Community School in Green Lake, SK worked with Annalisa Kolbeck to come up with the project. He says canoeing and storytelling have important historical, cultural and language connections to the land and the community.

“From experience we know how relaxed and comfortable kids feel out on the water – how alive their senses become. We also know how attentive and interested and alive students are when they’re listening to stories about their community and culture in their language,” he says. “So we figured, why not put them together and offer the kids in our school the opportunity to experience both at once.”

Kolbeck says the project helped create an opportunity to build relationships between the students and Elders as well as language and story.

“As educators, we want to do our best to provide opportunities for growth, learning and connection to all of our students. This project did that,” he says. “Watching the students’ faces as they listened to stories – their focus and interest – made me feel like something special was happening.”

He says the funding from Cameco Creative Kids Northern Fund helped run the program successfully, and there are plans to continue the project with the students, “I know the students loved it. You can bet that I’m thinking of canoeing already. I’d like to retrace a traditional trading route in June with students.”