Playing by different rules - A group of senior students at Kipling School learned some traditional Indigenous games during Truth & Reconciliation Day. Lamarr Oksasikewiyin (Teacher – Ochapowace Nation) says that the games allow students to discover aspects of First Nations culture that are often overlooked.

Yes… there are differences.
For example, as Lamarr Oksasikewiyin (a teacher from Ochapowace Nation) explained to a group of senior students from Kipling School – First Nations people measure time in a way that differs from what they might be accustomed to.
“If we celebrated a ‘New Year’ it would most likely be in March instead of January,” he noted. “And in our culture, when you want to know how old someone is – you ask them ‘How many winters have you seen?
“So, it’s not just about how ‘old’ you are. It’s about understanding what you’ve lived through. It’s a measure of your strength, your resiliency.”
While some might say that differences can easily become barriers – Oksasikewiyin hopes to help students from different cultural backgrounds learn to appreciate those things that make them unique – and discover the similarities that can bring them together.
He does this by inviting students at the schools he visits, to come outside and play.
Oksasikewiyin was at Kipling and Ochapowace schools to give students an opportunity to learn about (and try) some traditional First Nations’ games.
“I’m a teacher. I teach Land Based Learning at Kakisiwew School – Ochapowace Nation. But I’m (in Kipling) today on my own, not as part of any formal ‘program’.
“I came to showcase traditional games to some of the students here. This is something I’ve been doing since 2007. These games are an aspect of our culture that’s not normally portrayed.
“Inviting students to try these games is a different way of teaching. It doesn’t matter whether the students I’m talking to are First Nations or not – kids are kids. They love taking part in games. And it gives them a change to learn and experience something positive about our culture.”
Oksasikewiyin explains that the games are built around values and truths that are vital aspects of First Nations culture and perspective.
“Some games, like the one where students throw sticks (arrows) at moving targets (rabbits), teach something about what it means to be a hunter in our culture. Unless the hunters were successful – their people wouldn’t eat.
“So, it was important for the hunters to be successful. And in order to be a successful hunter, you have to pay attention to what you’re doing, and you always have to be ready.”
He notes that many of the games also help students learn about the need to deal with discomfort and pain and overcome it, rather than allow these things to overcome them.
“Especially in the games that involve strength, there can be an element of pain involved. The pain isn’t the goal. What matters is how the kids respond to the pain.
“I tell them, there’s going to be times in your life when you have to deal with pain on your own (and it won’t matter whether it’s physical or emotional). You’ll have to rely on yourself to get through it. That’s something that strength games help them learn.”
At the same time, Oksasikewiyin takes the opportunity to encourage the students to consider the significance of Orange Shirt Day.
“The last thing that I talk about with the kids is the Residential schools. I do that, because I’m hoping that what I say will stick with them (the way that last song that you hear before you turn off the radio and get out of the car does).
“The Residential Schools aren’t there to teach us about the people who were brought there. They’re there to teach us about what was done to them – and what happened after because of that.
“So, when I talk to these students about the Residential Schools, that’s the kind of thing I talk about. Then I ask them to take a moment, right at the end of our time together, and think about the solemnity of it.
“I remind the kids that we’re called ‘Residential School Survivors’. We’re not called ‘graduates’. I want to plant that seed in their heads and let them think about what that means.”
Oksasikewiyin says that his goal is to encourage the students he meets to look for ways to connect across cultural differences, leave the hard winter behind, and enter a new season together.
“What I’m hoping is that (sometime later) they’ll think about what they heard again. If they do that, it will build empathy, not sympathy. We don’t want sympathy. All sympathy does is get people to say, ‘I’m sorry’. Sometimes ‘I’m sorry’ is sincere. Sometimes it isn’t. But it doesn’t take you anywhere. It doesn’t change anything.
“Empathy can help you to reach out to other people and build bridges.
“It can help us find ways to meet each other half-way.”

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