Gerry Kisoun’s life as a youth was something like the cultural camp East Three students took part in this week.
“I used to live in a tent when I was growing up in the delta,” said Kisoun, who helps facilitate on-the-land learning experiences that see groups of students go out in the morning and afternoon to Boot Lake, spend time in a tent, learn about trapping, and – the highlight of it all – pull up the fish net from the ice and see what their catch is.
“My mother would make pancakes in the morning and we’d go to school. My dad has a fish net right in the river here. He had his dogs tied down on the riverbank and that’s how I grew up.”
Now he relishes the chance to walk down memory lane with the students and show them how life used to be.
“Catch one or two fish in there and they get very lively and excited,” said Kisoun. “To show these kids about what life used to be at one time, that’s awesome.”
Bella Kay, former staff member at East Three Elementary School, was helping lead the classes this week too.
“I was brought up out on the land,” she said. “I’m familiar with what’s going on today and I’m happy about it, that they’re learning what our ancestors and our grandparents and our parents taught us. It’s good to share it with them. I find the children are excited about it.”
Matthew Miller, vice-principal of East Three Secondary School, is leading the program this year.
“I think it’s important that all the kids get an experience to see this lifestyle,” said Miller.
“Some of our kids don’t have that opportunity to go out on the land, so we’re trying to provide that experience.”
An important part of the experience is learning Gwich’in and Inuvialuit words for the activities taking place.
After a big haul of fish Monday, students were able to each bring one home to their family, which Miller said is his favourite part of the program.