Janessa's Learning Portfolio INDG 3350

An exploration of aboriginal knowledge through a land-based experiential learning course with Nicole Bell. Trent University INDG 3350

Mino-giizhigad, Welcome!

Welcome to my page. My blog/learning portfolio contains journal like entries written throughout the two week course from April 23-May4 in the Spring of 2012. Please start with the about section (on the right side of my page) then head back to the main page of my blog. Scroll to the bottom and start with the posts reading up from there. Please follow the references to specific sections I have made on the right side of my blog and check out the remaining unexplored sections at the end.

The second assignment as part of this course is located on the page “unit assignment” as the last tab in the list of pages on the right hand side of the page.

Thank you and I hope I captured my journey in a unique and interesting way. ♥

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Sunsets From the Island

photo-47 photo-48photo-49

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Day 12



Our final days in 3350. It has been an incredible journey!

Fiddleheads are a brand new thing to me. Picking them was so cool, and soon after I was seeing Ontario fiddleheads on recipe cards and at the grocery store in Burlington, Ontario. Exposure is all it took and each spring I look forward to picking fiddleheads and bringing them home to the table.

Picking our own food from the way it occurs naturally is very fulfilling. I aspire to have a home with my own garden also. Both contribute to a positive livelihood. The earth is so rich. She is good to us, we should be good to her. Offering of sema is one way to give thanks to Mother Earth for sharing her resources with us. Before picking the fiddleheads or the leaks we offered tobacco and gave our thanks.

Nicole spoke of the Colonization Story. It is a milestone in the history of indigenous people. The brutality of European settlement and the impact it had on indigenous people, their livelihood, and their culture is unjust. It is a story that all Canadians should recognize and understand.

Although I learned some aboriginal history in high school, I do not feel it made a significant contribution to my knowledge and understanding. After this class I realize aboriginals are the people of this land and we can get a lot of insight from the way they live with the earth. Using the resources of the land to survive and sustain is a beautiful thing. Self sufficiency is a theme I want to keep coming back to in my life. Everyday I want to work towards adding skills and tools to my life that will help me be self sufficient and a valuable member to society.
In general, this course has helped me understand that aboriginal history should be given greater value.  One way to bridge the gap is to work with the educational system. In my next assignment I will be designing a curriculum unit on an indigenous and environmental topic for a high school class. Through this curriculum design project, my goal is to meet the cultural needs of indigenous students and the cross-cultural awareness needs of non-indigenous students. I am seeking to find harmony and balance between traditional and modern people of the land. How can we work together and be as one leading the world forward.

Discussing final thoughts, what we learned, hugs and warm fuzzies were good closure activities for the class. Although it is over, it has been an invaluable experience that I will never forget. It is the most unique class I have taken at Trent and the mentorship of Nicole Bell has been unique and fulfilling. What a great experience.

Moosemeat stew, venison, wildrice casserole

Moosemeat stew, venison, wildrice casserole

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Day 10

The Canoe Trip was really amazing. I partnered up with Steve, which was great because we hadn’t spent much time together yet. The ride was pretty smooth and we really enjoyed canoeing by the islands into the peaceful, secrete areas. I love the adventure this class has offered and I am so thankful to be apart of it.

We also talked about the medicine wheel in greater detail. Each section relates to the seasons, sacred medicines, the four directions and more. It is a very important symbol for the indigenous culture. Please take at look at the medicine wheel section for a deeper exploration.

Nanaboozhoo is a funny character in Anishinaabe culture. He is a spirit in children’s stories where he plays the role of a trickster as well as a hero. His stories relate to certain morals in life; how we should act and what we should not do. Check out one of Nanaboozhoo’s stories, How the turtle got it’s shell –>


Canoe Tripping

Canoe Tripping

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Day 8

The Vision Quest was an ultimate connection with nature. Nicole described the activity as spending time with our mother, sitting on her lap, acknowledging and paying attention.

Ultimately it is a way to learn from the natural environment, lowering the physical, heightening the spiritual. Not eating or drinking becomes a sacrifice, giving up water and food to give back for what we are asking for. Traditionally it is more of a purpose seeking activity most common among men, helping them figure out how they can best serve their community. For women, their purpose is obvious: to birth the nation.

I actually took this activity pretty seriously. I sat alone in the forest (with a chair). I had my phone but put it away for the duration of the activity. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. It was a really good time to clear the mind and take in the nature that surrounds you. Hearing the birds, observing the ants by your feet, the squirrels, etc. At greater periods of time, I really understand how one would start to see patterns and recognize the harmony that occurs all around us.

Remembering this type of fast would usually be done for days and nights without food or water made me realize the discipline involved. Initially, my biggest challenge during a time of mediation is quieting the mind. It is hard not to think of your next steps, or what happened before and just really enjoy the present moment. When you reach that point it is quite surreal, the colours around you are bright, things are clear, and natures harmony just seems to make sense.

Nicole taught us the Migizi Honour Song that went like this: “I saw the eagle, I heard the eagle, I am one with the eagle”. Although I have written it in English, we learned the song in the language of the Anishinaabe people. In short, the story of Migizi tells us that one time in history the people were not practicing and forgetting their teachings. Cleansing of the Earth was needed but the eagle called out to the creator and then searched far and wide to find someone who was still remembering their teachings. The Eagle is the one who called out to the creator wanting to help the people and he did by using his gift; the eagle flies the highest with the greatest eyes. We now sing to the eagle to give thanks.

The full lyrics for the Migizi song can be found here:

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Day 6

Morning Circle

Morning Circle

Our morning circles/sunrise ceremonies have become the common starting point to our day. It brings us together, creating common intention among the group. We smudge with sage to cleanse, offer tobacco to the fire while giving thanks, and give and receive hugs to share love. The hugs are one of my favorite parts of this class so far. The face to face interaction is creating strong bonds between everyone in the class. It’s rare that students and teachers interact this way. I wish it was abnormal not act this way. Nicole said something that really stuck out to me today, “It’s important to come together and take away the fear of touching one another.” This rings so true in my ears. We are part of a society that often frowns upon physical interaction between teachers and students in educational systems but it can be such a good thing for our own livelihood and connectedness.

We played a game a few days ago called Tapona. The North American Aboriginal Game was slow to start but became very engaging. I learned a lot about the different aboriginal groups in North America and feel that much of this knowledge is undervalued in modern society.

An overview of the First Nation, Metis and Inuit Education Policy Framework really opened my eyes to some of expectations and opportunities in the school system. The group brainstorming really sparked ideas of how to culturally infuse indigenous knowledge into our curriculum’s. This is a really awesome chance to be creative.

Finally a plant walk with Zoe was a major learning curve for me. I rarely visit the doctor when I have an issue unless it is absolutely necessary. Instead I often look up natural remedies online or visit the Earth Food Store in downtown Peterborough for natural supplements, herbal teas and non conventional health advice. Many of us are so dependent on Shopper’s Drug Mart, doctor’s and pharmacies so I was most intrigued about was the amount of resources right in our own backyard. My biggest realization is the great lack of self-sufficiency in modern society. I have included the information of the plants explored in the section “Plant walk on Lovesick Lake”.

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Day 3


Source: Toronto Zoo, 2010

Sage & Tobacco

Sage & Tobacco

The presence of spirit among the livelihood of indigenous people is very strong. I feel like this is something the modern, westernized culture has become greatly disconnected from.

We added smudging of sage to our sunrise ceremonies. It was a way to bring ourselves to the present moment and start off a good day. When I cleanse with the sage, I like to cleanse my eyes to see good, my ears to hear good, and my heart to feel good. Coming to the present moment is something we often forget to do and I can really appreciate the nature of this morning ritual. Many of us get caught up thinking about the past or the future without enjoying the present. It is a way to become focused and driven to our higher purpose and achieve the best we can TODAY.

We also introduced Tobacco (sema) to our morning circle. Sema is used to give thanks. We took a small piece of Sema, gave our thanks and offered the Sema to the fire.

The role of male and female in indigenous culture has become very prominent in our learning already. Specific roles of male and female should be nourrished as the woman has unique capabilities a man does not and vise versa.

Eg. Grandfather sun, fire is male
Grandmother moon, the earth is female

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Day 1 – The beginning of a journey

Today was a great first day. Even though it was cloudy and rainy, I am thankful we have all come together for what so far seems to be such a great course. I look forward to spending the next two weeks getting to know everyone.

I have a positive attitude going into the course. Bringing our classroom to the outdoors, in a new place is really exciting. I love experiential learning, new people and being outside, so I have a good feeling the next two weeks will be some of my favorite days as a student at Trent. I am stoked for canoeing and camping!

I’m not sure of everything Nicole has in store for us, but I  am eager to gain a greater perspective on indigenous and environmental knowledge and more specifically how we can leverage our school systems with this knowledge. Curriculum design is a completely new concept to me but it will be a good chance to get creative. I am using this blog to keep track of my journey throughout this course.

From now on I will post every few days, recognizing the milestones of my learning from those days.

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