Nmaachihna, offers a template for First Nations education

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MORAVIANTOWN –What would it be like to be cast back in time to the 1700’s; living off the land in a Delaware village? This is a question both Onhkwenhonh:we and non-Native people alike could ask themselves with equal curiosity.

There is much talk about a culturally sensitive, self-designed and executed, education system for First Nations people – what that means and how it would look.
But one would only have to make a visit to Nmaachihna, Indigenous Enviro-Education Centre in Moraviantown, near Chatham, Ontario, to be inspired.

Two Row Times paid a visit to the centre last week to see how a totally Delaware designed and crafted curriculum could fulfill the cultural needs of First Nations, and at the same time satisfy a certifiable, Ontario Ministry of Education approved model. The model is not only a look back into an ancient past, but a look towards the future at the same time.

Through the more than 60 programs offered to students, todays children can learn the recognized skills necessary to their future, but taught in the way the ancestors would have taught it– through hands-on and creative exercises that take knowledge out of the textbooks and into the real world. Students stay engaged and active while learning.

One such program involves the preparation and building of what they call a Wigwam.

Through the process, students learn mathematics, science, ecology, structural design, and other skills.

The Centre is the brainchild of Bruce Stonefish, Director of the Indigenous Education Coalition. The purpose and goal is to be an alternative learning centre with culturally and community based programs for First Nations students. As well, a valuable resource for teachers within Ontario’s public school system who are now adding mandate to include First Nations historical and cultural elements within their curriculums.

The reconnection of disenfranchised First Nations children to their heritage and culture made through Nmaachihna, are as rewarding to watch as it is to the self-worth and pride that develops within the First Nations student.

But it doesn’t stop there. The programs are also open to non-Native students who wish to see the world through a different perspective and learn more about the world around them and in doing so, bridge cultural gaps between the two world views.

Director Bruce Stonefish, says Nmaachihna is a “ʻlivingʼ village where students will get hands-on experience in working with the environment the way Indigenous peoples live with the land.”

The Centre opened to the general public in 2012 and has been growing ever since.“Nmaachihna is all about building relationships and improving the depth of understanding between First Nations and the rest of Canadian society,” says Stonefish.

Nmaachihna is located at 14921 Riverline Road, Bothwell, Ontario, which is on Delaware Nation Territory at Moraviantown. There are both summer and winter programs available. Call Rachel Hopkins at 1-519-692-3651 for more information.

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