The NWT’s Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning welcomed students back on the land last week.
Students started in-person programming last Tuesday. They will learn on the land for several weeks as part of a “blended delivery” system that also features two weeks of online work.
Typically, students spend all their time learning on the land. Kelsey Wrightson, executive director of the Dechinta Centre, says this is the first time students have completed components of their program online.
“The land really informs the academic content, so it’s really hard to separate the two,” Wrightson said.
Dechinta Centre students and staff. Photo: Morgan Tsetta/Dechinta
“We talk a lot about how the land is an important teacher, how the land has informed all of the education and all of the goals that we have for students as part of their learning. So finally being able to go and see that, and put it into action, is really important.”
Students and staff and will spend weeks gathering medicine, tanning hides, picking berries, and learning on-the-land skills.
Eight students are taking the current course, with several children accompanying their parents.
Jessica DeLeary, a Dechinta student and member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, says being out on the land makes it easier to retain what she is learning.
“I’m able to watch Elders skilfully work the hides and fix the fish, and which bush medicines to pick, with my eyes and not through pictures or videos,” she said.
DeLeary says being out on the land with her friends, family, and teachers reminds her of why she loves living in the North, and the importance of learning in-person from Elders and other teachers.
“It feels amazing to be out on the land with other strong, indigenous individuals who are looking for an Indigenous school experience,” she said.
“As colonized Indigenous people, we are so used to a colonized school system. This gives us something more than reading and lessons. It’s giving us on-the-land experience with the decolonization aspect through our hands-on experiences.
“We have this beautiful land in our back yards that we can go out and live off of, and I’m learning how to do it from the real bush masters.”