Our Project

Each week of our placement will be spent in a different daycare in Chisasibi. We will be working alongside the daycare educators in both preschool and pre-K classes to encourage language stimulation in Cree. We started our first week at Preston Daycare.

We split up into 2 teams, one that worked with the preschool classes and the other with the pre-K. We brought all of our book and dice materials, and with the help of the educators, introduced them to the children. It was really exciting to see what we made come to life; the children seemed to really enjoy the dice, books,  and associated activities. All of the educators were really nice and welcoming and many of them were eager to try the materials.

The children and educators have been trying to teach us Cree, so we’re learning a lot as well. We now know some of our colours, animals, and basic daycare vocabulary (e.g. sit, come here, hurry up, done, okay, and wait). We have a lot of fun using Cree words and laughing at ourselves when we say them wrong! We hope to learn more Cree as we move on to the next daycare.

 

 

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Down By The Bay

After building the michuap on Tuesday evening, we decided to check out James Bay, which is only a 20 minute drive away. On our way there, we drove through a swampy area where we spotted several hunters waiting patiently behind bushes, goose decoys in position.

20160531_204806It was explained to us that hunters set up decoys in order to trick flocks of geese (niskich) into landing in ponds. Geese are more likely to land there if they see other geese in the pond, as they assume that it is safe. When the geese eventually leave, the hunters shoot.

The bay was bitterly cold but very beautiful.IMG_5548

We found some very cool looking ice on the shore.IMG_5550

There were a lot of fishing boats along the beach.20160531_205615

The landscape by the water was rugged and covered with cool looking moss. 20160531_205843.jpg

While we were there, a flock of geese flew overhead. We heard gun shots and watched the geese turn and fly further away from land, over the bay, to avoid the hunters. That’s the closest we’ve gotten to hunting so far.

Sunset on James Baydownload_20160605_104727

We plan to come back and take more pictures on a warmer day.

Building a Michuap

On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to help the Chiskamish family build a michuap (teepee). Michuap are frequently used by the Cree as a kitchen and gathering place throughout the summer months. They are also built for walking out ceremonies.

We met Marie Jane and Charlene Chiskamish at two of the daycares. Marie Jane runs the Head Start program at one daycare and Charlene is in charge of another daycare. Their sister, Agnes, invited us to her twins’ walking out ceremony that was scheduled for Thursday. We asked if we could help them build the michuap.

It was hard work! We helped carry the poles made from trunks of small trees that had been cleaned of their branches and bark. We carried these to the chosen spot of ground where they were building the Michuap.20160531_192822

Next, the poles were lifted into the air and threaded together like a giant game of pick-up sticks. 20160531_195312

When we got there, there were only a few poles set up around the stone fireplace at the centre of the chosen spot. 20160531_191821-2

The building of the michuap was traditionally a woman’s role, although these days, men help too. Building a michuap requires an experienced elder, in this case, Elizabeth Chiskamish, Charlene and Marie Jane’s mother. There is a particular arrangement in which the wooden poles need to be placed, or else the michuap will fall. Elizabeth knew exactly what to do and was able to guide us and the rest of her family throughout the process.IMG_5585

The Chiskamish family was amazing! Many of them had never built a michuap before but they looked like professionals! All of the Chiskamish women (3 generations present) were incredibly strong and fast builders. 20160531_195714

Ben was really good too!20160531_193412

The result: the skeleton of a michuap (still needs a floor of cedar boughs and to be covered with tarps). 20160531_202609

View from inside the michuap:IMG_5586.jpg

Walk Around Chisasibi

On Sunday we decided to go for a walk around Chisasibi. Originally, we intended to visit Fort George (a nearby island on which the community used to be located). However, we soon learned that the walk would be 9 km and opted for a shorter trip. So we set off towards town and were almost immediately joined by a dog, who we named Hidalga. She accompanied us on our two hour excursion which took us along the La Grande river, it was so beautiful!

Still hoping to see Fort George but not too sure of where we were going, we set off along the shore. 20160529_134925

The walk was treacherous at times, but we had a lot of fun climbing over snow, ice, rocks and mud. Fichier_003IMG_5492

We never actually spotted Fort George, but we had a great time and made a new four-legged friend, so the walk was definitely a success. Fichier_001

On our way back to town, we checked out the new elementary school. Fichier_005Believe it or not, we were joined by a second dog on our way back, Goldie Han.IMG_5513

Here are our boots after a long walk around Chisasibi. 20160529_152904

The Materials

On Saturday, we organized all of our materials into bins. We had sent them up to Chisasibi a couple of weeks before, this saved us the hassle of bringing 36 bins onto the plane!20160528_141911

The project that we are doing will take place in all 3 of Chisasibi’s daycares. This means that we had to make 3 copies of each set of materials plus a fourth copy for our Clinical Educator, Alex, who will be using these materials at the MSDC in Chisasibi. That means that we have 4 sets of the giant dice, numerous copies of each of our pamphlets, and 4 copies of all of our book materials (for 8 books). That’s a lot of stuff!20160528_143624

Here are some of the book packages we put together:

20160528_140923Miyawbin’s Day is about a boy’s daily routine.

20160528_142346 We used Neebin’s Great Adventure to teach about colours.

20160528_135917Emily Whiskeychan’s Incredible Imagination encourages kids to think creatively.

20160528_141150Jeremiah’s Decision discusses various occupations.

Throughout making these materials, we have thought a lot about the target audience. We have tried to make them age appropriate, culturally relevant, and fun for both the children and the educators.  This meant that we had to make most of our own materials from scratch. Now that it’s done, we’re all very happy with the final product!20160528_165838

 

And we’re off!

Today’s the day! We woke up bright and early to meet at the airport for 5:40am. Together,  we (Anna, Ben, Cleo and Huong) boarded our flight for Chisasibi at 7:40am, while our profs, Sophie and Kelly boarded their’s shortly after us.20160527_092946

Our flight of 5.5 hours with Air Creebec over 1400 km consisted of intermediate turbulence, wonderful airplane food (it actually was pretty good!) several pit-stops for refueling in Val d’Or and Waskaganish before we finally arrived in Chisasibi! Here we are boarding in Montreal at 7:40am for our flight.

cropped-20160527_110449.jpgThis was the schedule board at the Waskaganish airport,  we thought it was pretty neat!

20160527_110009The airport at Waskaganish, in addition to being brand new and quite beautiful, was also the first place where we saw buildings with Cree writing.

20160527_121332 (1)This was our first glimpse of Chisasibi from the air!

File_000Once our Clinical Educator, Alex, picked us up, we all squished into her car with our million pounds of luggage.

IMG_20160605_105148398

We finally made it to Wichishkw Road. We’ll be staying in these lovely apartments for the next three weeks. Stay tuned for more adventures!

Let the prep work begin!

This week we arrived in Chisasibi. A lot of time and preparation has gone into this project. Here are some things we’ve  worked on before the big day!

Book Activities

For this practicum, we made activities for preschoolers to complement some Cree children’s books. It was an eye-opening opportunity for us to create fun, relatable materials that were also culturally relevant.

For eight books, we created story props (to help engage the children in the narrative), selected a Cree song, table-top games (for small groups), and a gym activity (to link physical activity with themes from the story). For all the activities, we incorporated core vocabulary from the books.

IMG_20160513_172251104Puppets for an occupation-themed book.

20160519_114457Bingo cards to help learn about colours.

20160528_140102An interactive magnetic paper doll to explore a child’s wildest imagination!

20160528_141729Puppets for an animal-themed book.

Dice 

We made fun dice to help stimulate storytelling! There are six sets of pictures, each with a different theme (Everyday, Summer, Winter, Traditional, Halloween, and Christmas).

20160528_143655Pamphlets

We also made a pamphlet describing bilingualism, as well as another pamphlet outlining some communication strategies for parents. We hope that these will be useful and informative resources for the educators and parents in the community.

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20160528_143051Eagle Spirit Camp

In the midst of making all these materials, we also participated in Eagle Spirit Camp! The camp is an initiative to showcase various professions to Indigenous youth from all across Canada. We had the privilege of teaching and sharing our love of speech and language in a workshop setting. The teens took part in activities which had them role-playing as a person with aphasia and as an S-LP planning lessons with children. It was inspiring to see how enthusiastic everyone was and how many great questions were asked of us!

Leading up to this, we attended a cultural sensitivity workshop given by SEDE (the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office of McGill University). The interactive blanket exercise highlighted the Indigenous perspective of Canada’s colonialist past that was not known to us in its entirety. The SEDE employees conveyed not only a factual retelling of Indigenous struggles, but also the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual toll that colonialism had – and continues to have- on Indigenous people. If you ever have the chance to participate in the workshop, we highly recommend it!

We can’t wait to start our first week in Chisasibi! We’ll keep you updated on our adventures!

-The ChisasSLPs (Benanna and Cluong)