Guest post by: Breanne Massey Article originally published in the Fort Qu-Appelle Times, February 20, 2015 Students wearing thick black boots recently weighed through the snow beside Highway 10. Parkland College BEAHR instructor, Carol Crowe, took a group of approximately 20 students into the cold winter weather to teach them about survival skills.
“The students are learning to bridge Western science and traditional (Aboriginal) knowledge,” said Crowe. “They’re learning both aspects of their own knowledge and western science to reduce the impacts of human and industrial development.”
The daylong exercise is designed through ECO Canada and falls into one of several programs that integrate Aboriginal culture and local knowledge into practical field experience through the BEAHR Training Program. The program teaches students how to access safe drinking water, build a shelter and store food while working with scientists in a wide variety of fields.
The short-term culturally relevant programs are geared toward environmentally minded communities. “It’s great to do it in the winter because it’s so cold,” said Crowe.
“It helps the students be prepared for when they start working out in the field.” It allows First Nations communities to develop environmental skills and foster rewarding green careers. “It’s a seven-week program,” said Crowe. “They’re here to learn all about the industry, environmental laws, how to look at contamination moving through the environment to help reduce the impacts of any road construction, or a mine going in or even a transmission line — whatever the developments are.”
Students who complete the program will have a strong skill set to identify wildlife and vegetation medicine, along with any traditional knowledge passed down through First Nations elders, to help mitigate environmental issues with scientists by identifying the contaminants of any region in Canada.
“They can help identify when there might be some damage to the environment and help stop it,” said Crowe, while the class practiced hiding food away from wildlife in a tree.
“Part of it because they’re out on the land and they could be anywhere in Canada, really. They are (working) with the national occupation standards, so they can work anywhere in Canada, so we really need to be prepared to be out there.”