“I always share, I believe we all learn in different ways, different teachings, and you get them as you go along.” Tanya Moses
The Kendomang Zhagodenamonon Lodge- site 1 known as KZ Lodge is a specialized Alternative Secondary School program that is offered to students in Thunder Bay from grade 9 to 12. This program is offered through a collaboration between the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre and the Hammarskjold High School which is with the Lakehead District School Board. Kendomang Zhagodenamonon translated means to “utilize the seven grandfather teachings to achieve success” Tanya Moses.
This program was created to integrate a curriculum that is Indigenous related to build on life skills and land-based learning. The program helps support students with the transition into the mainstream secondary school setting. Tanya Moses and Lisa MacLeod work with the students at the KZ Lodge. Tanya is the Alternative Secondary Support Worker and Lisa is the Cultural Academy Teacher. On average there are between 12 to 20 students that participate in the program.
Students join the program when they feel that they are ready; on some occasions, students join the program for a period of time and then return to mainstream classes or vice versa. This flexibility has been very helpful for overall student success. In the KZ Lodge program, students receive high school credits while receiving traditional/land-based teachings and life skills.
The program’s teachings are supported by community partners. The partners provide tremendous support for the program. Some of the partners are:
- The Ministry of Natural Resources, when possible, provides animals such as a deer that has been seized when the animal has been illegally hunted. Despite this unfortunate situation an opportunity is provided to the students to have access to wild meat and learn about the many gifts that the animal provides.
- Roots to Harvest, a local community organization that offers young people the opportunity to engage meaningfully in their food system, has been an incredible support with planting and harvesting.
Others who have shared their knowledge and teachings and helped students to grow include staff from Ecosuperior and the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre, and many supportive community members.
In the school yard, a garden is planted every year and harvested each fall. The students help with the garden where they can learn and increase their skills. Through ceremony, the students are given the opportunity to learn about and acknowledge the land and give thanks. They are reconnected to the land but also learn how to prepare the ground and the soil for planting in preparation of the harvesting in the future.
A three-sister garden and a four-direction medicine garden has been incorporated into the teachings to provide the students with the opportunity to learn about seeds, planting, and soil, also the teachings of patience and respect when planting through to harvesting. The teachings of the sacredness of the medicines are provided with the four-direction garden and planting medicines such as tobacco ensures access to the medicine when needed for traditional teachings.
Many teachings are shared with the students throughout their time with the KZ Lodge program. Students are encouraged to have an appreciation of the gifts that are given by mother earth. Knowledge and skills that are provided to the students vary depending on knowledge keepers. Students learn teachings about the water, moon cycles, the respect that is given to that animal for offering its life and many other teachings that can occur in daily interactions.
Providing the students with connection to the land is valued in the program. Some skills students have learned are: caring for wild rice, ice fishing, skinning animals, processing meat, scraping hides and tanning, making tools and learning about the medicine an animal can provide. Teachings are offered to the students about respect for each animal and to use all parts of the animal that can be used. Students really enjoy hands-on learning and the opportunity to connect to their culture and traditions.
“Getting them back to the land, creating roots to the land and rejuvenating the ones they have already. I think that is one core goal of our program is to get back to the land – she is there for us to learn from.” Tanya Moses
In addition to the focus on getting back to the land, every Friday there is a community kitchen program which is called K’kina ’Wiya Chiibaakweyog which means a place we all cook, that provides students with the opportunity to learn cooking and life skills. Once a month the community kitchen uses wild meat, such as the deer seized by the Ministry of Natural Resources, so students can learn how to cook the meat and share a meal with each other.
The drive, passion, and dedication of the staff have made this program a success. Through Covid 19, staff adapted their program and found creative ways to provide cultural teaching for the students through live streaming. Students continued to have access to various cultural teachings even if they were not able to be together as a group.
If people want to learn more they can see the program in action here: https://kzlodgehammarskjold.wordpress.com/