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To catch a rabbit

John Thompson
Northern News Services

Rae-Edzo (Mar 07/05) - Gregory Black plies trap wire into a noose and smiles as he recalls catching his first rabbit.

His grandfather was good on the land, and now this Grade 9 student is learning the same skills -- in school.

NNSL photo/graphic

Grade 9 student Gregory Black holds a rabbit caught by students attending Chief Jimmy Bruneau school in Rae-Edzo.

Black is one of about 350 students who attend Chief Jimmy Bruneau school in Rae-Edzo, which serves the largest Dogrib community in the NWT.

The kids here live in historic times, with the recent final passage of their land claim and self-government package through Parliament.

The Tlicho nation will soon control 35,000 square kilometres of land, minerals and resources, as well as administer their own culture, health and education programs.

And today, students like Black study Dogrib in class before bombing out on snowmobiles to set traps, hunt caribou and build cabins.

Own trapline

An equipment room is cluttered with boots, helmets and parkas used by students out in the bush. The school has its own trapline and right now students are helping instructor Joe Mantla cut trees for a new cabin.

"They're doing the hard part now, and that's almost over," says vice-principal Tammy Steinwand.

Once a week, students check traps and fish nets. They also learn how to skin rabbits and clean fish. Money earned from furs helps fund other activities.

Recently, nine senior students went out toward Gameti and returned with eight caribou.

Some students will drift away from the classroom, says Steinwand, but they always return for the outdoor programs. "When they hear the class is going out in the bush, they're here," she says.

Preserving the traditional ways is important at the school.

Inside the library's aboriginal special collection, what looks like a stack of abandoned rock tapes contains the collective memory of two dozen elders, their legends and oral histories captured on magnetic ribbons. Thousands of photos borrowed from the museum sit nearby.

Principal Rita Mueller says she wants cultural programs to be the school's focus.

"It's a project I hope students will take a vested interest in."