As the national institution responsible for promoting humane and sustainable furbearer trapping practices, the Fur Institute of Canada (FIC) states its support for land-based alternative education. It is the position of the FIC that alternative land-based programs are an important yet uncommon part of regular school curricula. This is particularly true in Aboriginal communities, which regularly experience higher unemployment and school dropout rates than in urban areas.1
It is accepted that land-based educational programs better reflect the local values, traditional knowledge, mixed economies, and the employment opportunities that exist in rural Canada. Accredited land-based programs also broaden the scope of school curricula so that they respond to the needs and strengths of a wider variety of students, particularly those considered at-risk. Moving out of the usual "closed" school environment has proven to help reduce defensiveness and change students' relationships with adult leaders. For Aboriginal students, on-the-land programs also have the potential to incorporate more culturally oriented approaches into school curricula.
To date, the FIC has been involved in two on-the-land pilot programs targeting youth from ages 16-30 in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories. This program, titled "Reconnecting with the Land - Youth At-Risk Conservation Education" took several youth into an elder's trapping camp for an extended period of time. The program has met with wide acceptance and a wide array of successes:
1INAC Information Management Branch, 2001, and Government of Canada Census, 2000
Over the past year, the Government of Manitoba, through the Department of Conservation, supported the development of curriculum models for land based learning in Manitoba schools. Much of the work on this Reconnecting with the Land project was based on the very successful youth programs the Fur Institute of Canada administered in the Sahtu and Inuvik regions of the Northwest Territories, in conjunction with the NWT Government.
The Fur Institute of Canada and the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre have led the process to consult with First Nations communities and educators for the development of programs that not only meet the needs of elders to pass on their knowledge and respect for the land to younger generations but also meet the requirements of Manitoba Education for School Initiated Courses. A Steering Committee and Working Group were established to give a broad range of input into the process and now Manitoba Education has approved four curriculum models for use by communities in their schools.
Schools can request registration of RWTL courses by following the usual SIC registration process outlined by Manitoba Education. This can be viewed at http://www3.edu.gov.mb.ca/sic/DisplayMain.do Manitoba School Principals must remember to register these courses each year for students to gain credits.
The four curriculum models can be viewed and downloaded at the following links:
The oldest of three boys, I grew up in New Liskeard, Ontario. I attended the University of Ottawa, where I completed my psychology and social work degrees, and later obtained by B.Ed. from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. I began my career as an addictions and mental health counsellor for adolescents in Sault St. Marie, Ontario, but have been teaching in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories since August 2000. I currently reside in Colville Lake, NT. When not teaching, I seize every opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and explore the area with friends, schlepping camera gear in the process. I don't think that my photography skills are remarkable by any stretch of the imagination; it's the beauty of the land and the unique photo opportunities of the North that make some of my pictures interesting.
Claude Camirand's comments on Measuring Success in Achievement of Objectives:
"We must keep in mind that not all change is immediately perceivable, and not all successes measurable. Even though we may not be able to measure them in terms of money or credits, some factors are invaluable. For example, there is a lot to be said about the stability and structure that was provided at camp (in comparison to what may happen in communities). At camp, every student's basic needs were met: students were treated with respect and dignity; every day began with a healthy breakfast and was followed by 2, sometimes 3, healthy meals; students had a good night's sleep (most of the time), and the effects of drug and alcohol abuse were absent. It is also very important not to undermine the little things such as having meals as a group and having informal but important discussions with peers or instructors while preparing meals, doing chores or sitting around a hot stove drinking tea in a tent at night. These spontaneous and informal discussions can be thought provoking and are conducive to good communication, self-improvement and solving real life problems."