The smell of fried fish and bannock wafts through the air outside Jack Hulland Elementary School on a sunny May morning. There is a buzz of excitement among the students as the school’s fishing camp, organized by the Yukon First Nations Education Branch (YFNED), kicks off.
For two and a half days, each school student participates in a fishing camp with their class, learning about the life cycle of salmon and other fish, the body of the fish, how to properly fillet a fish and the variety dishes the fish can be used for. You will also have time to participate in a fishing trip with classmates and enjoy bannock, tea and a variety of fish around the campfire.
The event is one of many programs YFNED offers to schools across the territory aimed at sharing First Nations culture and knowledge with all students. This includes fishing camps, drum and bead making workshops, among others. The branch also offers a nutrition program, a mobile therapy unit and an early childhood program.
At the fishing camp held at Jack Hulland Elementary School, each class spends time in the camp area. A team of Advocates, Junior Advocates, and Knowledge Keepers are on hand to share their knowledge and skills as the students soak it all up.
The camp is adapted according to school levels.
“So for the younger kids there is a little magnet fishing game,” said YFNED education advocate Olive Morland. “So at times when the kids are lining up for the bannock or maybe you know they have no place to go, there’s a young lawyer who’s having a little magnet game of sin.”
Books for younger and older students are available. Students in the school’s upper grades can also try their hand at filleting fish, or even cooking fish over the campfire, with YFNED advocates sharing their own tips for cooking the perfect fish fries.
“We are forever learners,” said YFNED education advocate Kim Harper, recalling learning a few new cooking skills from a 7th grader.
Inside a wall tent at the site, posters detail information about salmon, with knowledge keeper Andy Carlick explaining the life cycle of salmon to students and answering questions. Asking questions and listening to the answers, students color fish information sheets.
Just a year ago, Anthony Johns was attending the Jack Hulland School Fishing Camp himself as a 7th grader at the school.
That day, he was asked to spend the day away from his Grade 8 class at Porter Creek High School and is quite in his element at the fishing camp, working behind a table filleting salmon and, as Carlick, answering the many questions the students ask. .
“Apparently they call me the fish guy,” the teenager said with a slight smile, referring to a nickname his friends gave him because of his knowledge and skills.
Johns grew up learning a lot from his grandmother at her fishing camp and sharing that at his old school.
As he narrates what he does while he spins the fish, he also answers questions about what parts of the fish are left on the table for the students to pick up and hold. There are guts, fish heads and more picked up by the gloved hands of curious students.
While many parts of fish are kept on the table for the students, there are also pieces vacuum sealed and stored in coolers which will be used to make chowders, salmon patties and other meals which will be served in many YFNED programs.
Johns is modest when he talks about helping – he says when the opportunity came he wanted to be a part of it because he loves to see the smiles on the students’ faces when they learn about fish. Others in the education department are quick to point out that John’s strengths go far beyond his threading skills.
“He’s also a natural leader,” Carlick said. “We watch it on PC [Porter Creek Secondary School] and it’s just amazing how he is with the other students. He always helps and he is always ready to learn.
As Harper recalled when the direction was at Jack Hulland for his fishing camp in 2021, Johns wanted to show his classmates what he was doing at his grandmother’s fishing camp and how to fillet a fish.
“He stole the show and did an amazing job,” Harper recalled. “So we recruited him to be one of our mini juniors [advocates] for supporting us with fishing camp this week.
For advocates like Harper and Ryan Troke, watching a student connect with their culture at school and then coming back to share that with others is rewarding.
“He’s incredibly proud of where he comes from and he’s incredibly proud to share what he’s learned from his family,” Harper said, describing it as a proud moment for YFNED.
Junior attorney Brook-Lynn Mason was also showing how fish are filleted alongside Johns.
Mason said it was thanks to a roommate that she took on the role of junior attorney. Every day, her roommate who worked as a junior lawyer would come home, telling her about what she did at work – spending the day with elders, dropping off food for the nutrition program and working with students.
“It was new every day,” Mason said, adding that she also wanted to be part of something that has proven to make a difference for students and families, like the programs offered in the framework of the YFNED.
When a junior attorney position opened up, Mason applied and has enjoyed his role ever since.
Other junior advocates working at the fishing camp also expressed their goal of making a difference for students and their families, noting that these types of cultural activities present many teaching opportunities that would not otherwise arise in a classroom. traditional class.
It takes a lot to make fishing camp happen, starting with the school asking for YFNED support for the camp.
“They’re really practical,” Harper said of Jack Hulland’s staff. “They’re super inviting, and very excited and excited to be able to do this.”
Before camp, there’s work to prepare printed resources and make sure there are enough fish, not to mention the ingredients needed for bannock and other supplies. Over the four days, a total of 24 coho salmon and 45 arctic char were used for the camp.
“The hope is that each class will get about two gutted and filleted Arctic char,” Morland said, noting that it gives them a chance to see the differences in size, textures and more.
Camp was set up on a Monday and the first classes made their way on Wednesday. By the end of camp on Friday, each student had made their way through learning about fish, the life cycles, filleting and cooking a fish, and sharing the feast.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at [email protected]