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Elders tell stories to a new generation
Trout Lake students learn about community history

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 20, 2014

Compared to what Trout Lake's elders had to do when they were her age, Shannon Jumbo is reconsidering how difficult her chores are.

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Adam Lamalice, right, and Tabilea Kotchea visit with elder Sarah Ann Jumbo. Students in kindergarten to Grade 3 at Charles Tetcho School have been speaking to elders in Trout Lake to learn more about their community's past. - photo courtesy of Lynn MacFadyen

Shannon and the nine other primary students at Charles Tetcho School have been visiting elders in their community. By listening to the stories and lessons they choose to share, the students are learning about their culture, language, heritage and what the elders' lives were like when they were young. Since January the students have visited with elders Margaret Jumbo, Edward Jumbo, Sarah Jumbo and Sarah Ann Jumbo.

Shannon, 7, said the elders had a much harder childhood than she does.

"They had to feed dogs when it was pitch black," she said.

The elders' experiences are very different from hers. In the summer, when they couldn't use the dog teams if they wanted to buy food, they had to walk all of the way to Fort Simpson or Fort Liard, she said. The only toys they had were sticks or wooden things their dads carved them.

Shannon remembers a lot of what Margaret shared about coming to town and having to go to school for the first time.

"She didn't know how to talk English," Shannon said.

Shannon said that she's been learning a lot from talking to the elders.

"It's fun," she said.

"You get to listen to them."

The visits with the elders are part of the Elders in Schools Program, which is linked to the social studies program, said Lynn MacFadyen, the primary teacher at the school. MacFadyen arranges the visits to the elders' homes in advance and Yvonne Jumbo provides translation.

"They were very gracious," MacFadyen said.

The elders like to come to the school, but it is icy so the students have been going to see them. For some who don't get out often, it is a nice opportunity to see the children, she said.

The theme that most of the elders have shared is the importance of learning what you need to survive on the land. Edward spoke about the importance of being smart in the bush, including knowing how to cut wood and what types of trees to cut.

He told the students they need to be ready for things that could happen in the bush like bad weather, MacFadyen said. He also stressed how important it is to listen to elders and learn from them so you know what to do in different situations.

The students have been writing down what they've learned and posting it on a board in the school's hallway under the title pass on the teachings. Photos of the students and elders are also posted on the board.

"It's been getting a lot of attention," MacFadyen said.

The students are proud of their work and community members have also been reading what they've written.

Sediah Lamalice, 6, has also enjoyed talking to the elders and learning about things like the old schools that used to be in Trout Lake.

"They're suppose to not play with dogs. They're suppose to listen to their mom and dad," she said.

The students will be doing more visits when it is convenient for the elders.

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