By Barbara Gardner – 1st year MDP student
My work with the Literacy Department at Blue Quills has been exciting and rewarding; through assisting the department I am now more aware of some educational and employment challenges affecting the community as well as steps being taken through the institution to address the issues.
I assisted the department with several endeavors that will in some way address the multi-faceted issues. Numbered among these was the preparation of a grant proposal which will see Elders and Seniors among the seven first nations communities that are on the board of Blue Quills First Nations College volunteering to teach literacy on Reserve. This will be accomplished through story telling in the various First Nation languages spoken on the reserves. There will also be the production of books in all seven languages and English from kindergarten up to grade four.
Additionally, I assisted in the planning and attended a workshop aimed at improving adult literacy in families on Reserve. The objective of this program is to build self-esteem among the community members, instill cultural values as well as facilitate training in life skills to ensure employability, through improved literacy skills. It was heartwarming to participate in these discussions, recognizing that there is universality in the issues that affect all communities, however, the methods employed to solve these issues are what is uniquely different and based on the heritage and history in the community.
Children creating journals at the Boys & Girls Club
The focus interestingly of the literacy department was not only on adults, they also undertook community outreach with the Saddle Lake Boys and Girls Club. Through the efforts of the College, the children Boys and Girls Club were able to see reading as fun, through the use of various craft projects; allowing them to use their imagination to create their own stories, using their own words and drawing pictures of how they feel and relate to particular activities. During the activities, the cultural practices (smudging and sharing circles) and protocols were also taught/ reinforced. I think these are excellent tools to teach the young, as they are more likely to remember and practice them because they learnt them in a safe and fun environment.
Through these various experiences, as a person of colour and from a marginalized group, I am appreciating that though we are different; collectively, we are the same. As Indigenous peoples, we continually strive to ensure members of our communities improve their “lot,” become less reliant on the welfare or government aid, embracing our heritage and improving our self-esteem.