NNSL Photo/Graphic

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Gwich'in studies coming to Inuvik
New courses being piloted in Aklavik and Fort McPherson schools

Sarah Ladik
Northern News Services
Thursday, February 25, 2016

Students in some communities in the Beaufort Delta have some new choices when it comes to their class schedule.

NNSL photo/graphic

Laura Pascal-Stewart colours in a name tag for her belongings last fall during Grade 2 Gwich'in class. Gwich'in is offered at the elementary level already at East Three School, but will soon be joined by a secondary level course. - NNSL file photo

As of last fall, schools in Aklavik and Fort McPherson have been offering a class on Gwich'in culture and history, a course that may be introduced at East Three Secondary next year.

"For me, I wanted to make sure we encourage kids to stay in school," said Gwich'in Tribal Council vice president Norman Snowshoe.

"What better way to do that than to have the culture and history and land claim in the schools?"

The course is offered at the secondary level and is optional, but students receive credits. Snowshoe said that in meetings with the GTC leadership across the region, they identified a need to "develop capacity throughout the region" with regards to Gwich'in history and the land claim agreement.

"We threw around some ideas, and came up with a curriculum to introduce in the schools," said Snowshoe.

The process to develop the course - which covers everything from Gwich'in legends to wildlife management and the Gwich'in land claim - began in 2013. Snowshoe said the Beaufort Delta Education Council was supportive from the very beginning.

"There's no feedback yet, but we're quite enthused about teaching in the high school," he said. "I want to hear the reaction of the kids to these courses once they've been implemented."

East Three School principal Deborah Reid said without having seen the curriculum she couldn't comment on it directly but that any class that gets students involved with local knowledge is a positive thing.

"We do land claims in Northern studies but that has a broader NWT focus," she told the Drum. "A focus on the Gwich'in land claim can only be a good thing."

She also said it's important for any class offered to be able to keep students' attention.

"It needs to engage students," she said. "It has to be delivered in a way that's not just chalk and talk."

While the eventual goal of the course is to help develop future Gwich'in leaders, Snowshoe said he would love to see non-Gwich'in students signing up for it.

"We live in the North," he said. "It's all about community-building and relationships. I think this would be an excellent tool for them.

"One of the goals is to have them get a sense of identity, and an increased enthusiasm for studying, not only mainstream courses, but other courses that would enable them to branch out their studies."

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