On November 7th and 8th, 25 students and instructors from Red River College’s Indigenous Education went to Fisher River Cree Nation to learn about the Initiatives the community has undertaken regarding Community Development, Economic Development and Social Entrepreneurship. The community facilitated discussion with community leaders who ensure that environmental stewardship, sustainability and cultural values are integrated into all aspects of community life. Chief Crate and Council members spent time with the students explaining how they achieve and maintain a healthy community and environment by describing initiatives, research, land management and governance structures that support the ongoing resilience of the community despite the colonial imposition of the Indian Act and other policies that historically have sought to diminish these very values.
The students and instructors then embarked on an extensive tour led by one of the council members of the community to numerous locations of interest including the cottage lot development, the largest solar farm in Western Canada, the new community hall, the band office and the high school. The school is new and incorporates geothermal heating (as do most homes and buildings) and sustainability into the design. It also highlights the Cree cultural and language ways of learning through Artwork, Architecture and programs. Some programs include land based teachings of hunting and trapping, Cree language integration into curriculum and an access life program that prepares students for success into life after high school into post-secondary opportunities, entrepreneurship or other types of success.
The evening was hosted by council member Carl and his wife Jeannie who prepared a sweat lodge ceremony. The group is diverse and includes students who are of Indigenous, non-Indigenous and International decent. The experience for most was the first time experiencing Cree ceremony, medicines, songs and drumming. The field trip ended with a sharing circle and honour song led by Elder Jeanie and delivered with traditional drum playing and singing by a talented young man who brought some of the group to tears with his song.
Red River College is extremely grateful for the opportunity to visit and connect with FRCN and for the generous hospitality, language and cultural teachings, delicious food and history books they received.