Students learn about the life cycle of salmon and Mi'kmaq culture

Isabella Zavarise

Jun 10, 2019
A growing number of Island students are helping maintain salmon populations and learning about Mi'kmaq culture through the Abegweit Plamu'k na Kitapina'q (Salmon are our Friends) Program.

The students raise salmon from eggs in their classrooms before releasing them into Island rivers.

Wednesday a group of students from Belfast Consolidated and Vernon River Consolidated schools traveled to Mooney's Pond in eastern P.E.l. to release fish they'd been raising for the past five months.

"The water is a gift of life for everyone on Mother Earth. To human beings, to our animals, to our fish," Mi'kmaq Elder Junior Peter Paul told the students after he performed a ceremony the drumming and smudging.

'Looking at it through two viewpoints'

Eliza Star Child Knockwood is Indigenous outreach and education manager for the Abegweit Conservation Society.

She says the Salmon are our Friends program has been growing every year, with five more schools participating this year.

The Abegweit First Nation's fish hatchery collects and spawns the wild salmon and gives fertilized eggs to the schools along with equipment and advice to raise the eggs to the next stage.

Knockwood said the program includes aspects of language arts, social studies, science, biology and math but the main focus is looking at it from the "two-eyed seeing concept."

"We're looking at it through two viewpoints — one of it being an Indigenous perspective and the other of being a Western perspective. So we're bringing in the Indigenous cultural component as well as the scientific component through this program," she explained.

'Empowering the next generation'

"In today's world we have a co-relationship that is really critical for all of us as people who live on this earth," she said. "How can we mend any broken relationships together through past occurrences. This program kind of encompasses that by empowering the next generation with knowledge, wisdom and understanding of Indigenous people here and on Turtle Island."

Knockwood said students are taught the important relationship between salmon and the Mi'kmaq people, and how the fish's populations are under pressure.

"I'm hoping that they'll walk away today feeling enriched with knowledge and experience so that they too can move forward in their lives as good allies and and good stewards of the earth and of the water," Knockwood said.

The group works with local watershed groups and the province, which chooses where to release the salmon.

Belfast Consolidated School Grade 5 student Bianca Harcourt was excited to watch the fish grow in the classroom.

"Every time I had free time ... I'd pop in and see the fish because the first few weeks they were just eggs," she said. "And then you could see them in the rocks, and then they were up on top swimming around."

Sofia Buffa is in Grade 7 at Belfast Consolidated and says she learned a lot about Mi'kmaq culture as well as Atlantic salmon.

"We need to get them back and healthy so we can have them as our food and also they can help rivers and the wild."


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