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The Inuvialuit Living History Gathering took place at East Three Secondary School last week, giving students from Grade 5 to 12 the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning about Inuvialuit history.

At the gathering, students had the chance to hear stories from elders like Mary Kudlak in Inuvialuktun, learn printmaking from Roberta Memogana and learn how to make fish hooks with Darrel and Josephine Nasogaluak.

Natasha Lyons, left, and Lisa Hodgetts pose together at the Inuvialuit Living History Project exhibit in the East Three Secondary School foyer.
Samantha McKay/NNSL photo

Natasha Lyons, adjunct faculty at Simon Fraser University and co-organizer of the gathering, said it is important for students to have hands-on learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

“Not all students learn the same way. We hear from parents and leaders in the Inuvialuit and Gwich’in communities that school isn’t totally working for their kids, so this is a way to shift the game and bring in more cultural content so it can work better for them and so that they can feel more prepared for life after school,” said Lyons. “We also had a community feast for the public to come out and participate in the gathering.”

Students could also learn from Parks Canada representatives about Inuvialuit artifacts from Yukon North Slope and Ivvavik National Park, as well as a collection of artifacts from Yellowknife’s Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.

The Aurora Research Institute (ARI) was also a partner in the organization of the gathering and brought a laser cutter to the event for students to create a wood carving of something they learned about while at the gathering.

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Lisa Hodgetts, associate professor at the University of Western Ontario and co-organizer of the gathering said the idea behind the ARI partnership is to merge old and new ways of learning.

Betty Elias, left, works with Fitsum Hailu at the Aurora Research Institute’s laser carving table.
Samantha McKay/NNSL photo

“We’re trying to find ways to marry longstanding traditions from the past with 21st century technologies that kids can really engage with,” said Hodgetts. “With Inuvialuit culture, as is with many Indigenous cultures, the way teaching and learning happens is by listening and watching and doing and hearing the stories that come out while you’re doing those things. We really wanted to create an opportunity for elders and youth to get together so those things can happen.”

Drum dancing and Arctic sports were also part of the gathering.

Many elders from the community attended the gathering and youth had the opportunity to listen to their stories as well as speak with them and ask them questions.

Grade 10 student Madison Francis said she enjoyed being able to learn outside of the classroom.

“I learned how to play the hand pulling game. It was really cool to be able to do that at school. It’s nice to have a break from doing regular normal class stuff,” said Francis. “It’s part of my culture and I’m happy that I get a chance to learn more about it.”

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