BROCKVILLE — Students from the Upper Canada District School Board’s Indigenous Leadership (iLead) program gathered at the Brockville Aquatarium yesterday to learn about traditional environmental stewardship.
The event was attended by 100 students, comprised of iLead members and their non- Indigenous friends. iLead is the Board’s Indigenous Leadership program. It brings self- identified students together five times annually for leadership opportunities and to discover the traditional ways of Indigenous Peoples. Students spent the day learning about the First Nations tradition of living in harmony with nature using the Aquatarium’s St. Lawrence River exhibits as a backdrop for discussion.
“The theme of the day was stewardship of the water,” said Bill Montgomery, UCDSB Indigenous Education Lead. “A lot of information was passed on about the history and the life of the St. Lawrence River and how we’re reliant on it.”
Mohawk Elder David Jock spoke about Indigenous medicine and land teachings, shared details of the Mohawk Creation Story, and the important role in First Nations culture of creatures such as the wolf, turtle, otter and sturgeon. He also discussed how the Mohawk have traditionally relied on nature for hundreds of herbal cures, and how environment degradation has resulted in their scarcity.
Students were challenged to design an exhibit to have a distinct connection to indigenous people or an interactive webpage with a First Nations connection. Students devised some unique ideas, including a St. Lawrence Iroquoian pottery exhibit, and an interactive rowing display that would allow people to row through time, and see how the St. Lawrence Valley has changed from the early days of the settlers.
Montgomery presented on the Haida Peoples’ struggle in British Columbia. The First Nations Peoples of the Northwest Coast are fighting to preserve their lands and way of life from encroachment by pipelines, businesses such as fish farms, logging and other forces harming the environment.
Students also took part in a self-guided tour of the Aquatarium, interactive exhibits such as the rowing simulator, a green room allowing students to take photos with superimposed backdrops of St. Lawrence River landmarks, and a session on water stewardship.