Cultural Exchange on the Land

Cultural Exchange on the Land

People from different parts of the globe who now call Yellowknife “home” gathered at the Bushkids site on Sunday morning for a Cultural Sharing and Exchange workshop. The morning was the first of four half-day sessions that welcomed folks who, recently and not-so-recently, arrived to Canada and the community of Yellowknife from other countries. The space provided a rich opportunity for cross-cultural exchange and connection as we shared worldviews, stories, and food on the Land.

The workshop was hosted by Beb(a)ski – For the Land consulting and services, a collaboration between Chloe Dragon Smith and Robert Grandjambe, who took time out of their busy spring trapping season to visit us from their off-grid home in Wood Buffalo National Park. The name of their company comes from each of their ancestral backgrounds: beba meaning “for” in Dënesųłı̨né yatié (Chipewyan Dene language) and aski meaning “Land” in nêhiyawêwin (Woodland Cree language). Part of Beb(a)ski’s mission is to provide spaces for teaching and sharing Indigenous knowledge on the Land, and opportunities for engaging in Ethical Space – living and learning in harmony with the Land while co-creating space that both welcomes and respects the coexistence of differing worldviews (e.g., Indigenous and Euro-Western). 

We began our time together rooted in this philosophy of Ethical Space. While standing in a circle, we fed the fire and learned about welcoming, introducing ourselves to, and acknowledging our gratitude for, the Land that we live and play on every day. Chief Drygeese territory is home of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and, more recently, the North Slave Métis Alliance. Then we introduced ourselves to one another, a diverse group from all walks of life coming together to share our similarities and differences with stories, customs, and food.

As the morning went on, we were invited to learn about different animals of the NWT with a hands-on fur kit resource designed by Beb(a)ski. The fur kit made its debut during these workshops and was a real hit with everyone! It is a free NWT Literacy Council resource. It comes complete with fact sheets for the 16 furs included in the kit, most of which were harvested by Chloe and Robert. The fact sheets are available for download online and the full kit, complete with furs, is available to sign out free of charge through the NWT Literacy Council. 

After the excitement of learning about the different animals of the NWT, we also learned about trapping, how to make a snare for a hare, and how to clean small game animals. Each session ended with sharing food from everyone who participated in the workshop. This was a great way to end the session: sharing food, stories, and smiles. For newcomers and “oldcomers” alike, this was also an opportunity to counter colonial ways of thinking. The workshop helped to further develop an understanding of, and appreciation for, Indigenous systems and the rich stewardship of the Land by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples of the Northwest Territories. Through these workshops we deepened intercultural relationships and fostered a safe environment for learning and exchanging ideas and knowledge in mutual respect and appreciation. 

You can view more photos here

-    Steph van Pelt works in the role of Integration Advisor for the NWT Literacy Council

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