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Cultural connections enhance learning for Onoway students

Posted on Mar 15, 2019

Nakota Elder shares personal stories and cultural connections with students

Onoway Jr/Sr High students were treated to a special visit from Nakota Sious Nation Elder, Francis Alexis, this past week. Mr. Alexis spent time with Ms. Elliott’s Math 10 class, explaining to students how Math, Science and the Medicine Wheel are intertwined and the significance of the number ‘9’  to First Nations people. Mr. Alexis related the Medicine Wheel and its components to our traditional directions of north, south, east and west, demonstrating that this was 360 degrees of a circle. He explained how the circle was divisible by 90, by 45 and all the way down to 9 through the components of the Wheel.

He also discussed the additional two directions - the Creator and Mother Earth – and explained how the Medicine Wheel is a 3D concept. Mr. Alexis went on to highlight other shapes found in the Medicine Wheel -the triangle and the square - explaining how these shapes within the Wheel relate to a Cartesian plane.

Throughout the lesson, Mr. Alexis showed what a great storyteller he was, sharing personal stories from his childhood, generational stories and legends from the Medicine Wheel such as the creation of man, and how lightning and thunder were from the Thunderbird. 

Principal Lobo shared, “We are so fortunate to have members of the First Nations community share their culture and life experiences with students and staff. These cultural connections enhance learning for students, broaden our perspectives and inspire the entire school community."

Traditional dancer, story teller and role model, Adrian LaChance shares day with students

On March 13, traditional dancer, story teller and role model, Adran LaChance, spent a day at OJSH talking and interacting with as many students and classes as possible. All students from Grade 8 to Grade 12 had the opportunity to hear Mr. LaChance speak. Adrian wore his traditional warrior regalia, headgear and face paint for each of his presentations, nothing that much of the intricate sewing on his regalia, he did himself - a skill passed down to him from his mother.

Adrian is a Plains Cree originally from James Smith Cree Nation located near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He now makes his home in Edmonton. Adrian has travelled across Canada, the United States and overseas talking about and sharing the Cree culture. He uses traditional teachings and customs to bring about spiritual awareness and to build positive relationships among all peoples. 

Adrian shared with students his personal story of childhood abuse, foster care and, as he grew older, crime, gangs, drugs and alcohol. Living life on the streets, he became an addict at the age of 14 and was eventually arrested for drug possession and trafficking. However, it was in jail that Adrian was introduced to Indigenous culture and he began to listen to the words from the Elders.  After close to ten years in the federal system, Adrian began to work with the Elders, truly trying to understand the gift of forgiveness and to begin his healing journey. 

At age 47, Adrian has been drug and alcohol free for 23 and a half years. He has made it his mission to talk to youth about forgiveness and sharing, and he uses humour and cultural awareness as a way to bring people together. Adrian also credits traditional dancing as saving his life. For him, dancing and drumming has helped him to heal. He has been a Grand Champion dancer since 2002.

Impact of the residential school system 

Adrian also discussed residential schooling with students and how the disrespect of cultural appropriation and the historical trauma of residential schools continues to have generational repercussions.

With humour and kindness, Adrian challenged students to be respectful and accepting, "What can you do to make a better place? Each one of you has an opportunity to make Canada a more kind and loving place. It starts with dialogue.”

The day of cultural sharing came to a close with Adrian performing one of his traditional dances for students.

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