The Roots & Shoots A.P.E. Fund grant enabled me to provide tools to non-Indigenous youth, helping them better understand and take action towards reconciliation. The experience encouraged both my peers and me to contemplate the significance of environmental stewardship, inequity, and biodiversity loss through Indigenous perspectives and wisdom.

My aim was to raise awareness of firsthand Indigenous perspectives and experiences within my school community, in order to educate and foster connections. I outlined my ideas in the Roots & Shoots application and was fortunate enough to receive the A.P.E Fund grant to bring these ideas to life!

Working in collaboration with teachers at my school, I reached out to the Indigenous trustee and representatives of our school board. I expressed my desire to create an engaging project that would unite Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, promoting understanding, empathy, and respect. Through conversations with them, I gained insights on curating a project that would have a meaningful and lasting impact.

After careful consideration, we decided on organizing a magic braid and storytelling workshop. During the workshop, guest speakers brought deer hide and taught students about the tanning process, including soaking, removing, and wringing the skin. We learned that deer hides hold significance to Indigenous communities due to their practical uses in clothing, shelter, ceremonies, art, and their symbolic connection to nature and ancestral traditions. Additionally, students had the opportunity to learn about the personal histories of the teachers, their origins, and their perspectives on environmental conservation through an Indigenous lens.

Each student was given a strip of deer hide and scissors to craft their own magic braid bracelet. They were informed about the various purposes for which deer hide can be used, such as making clothing, bags, and ropes. Moreover, students were introduced to “strawberry water,” a beverage used for promoting health and well-being, which is a feature of many Indigenous ceremonies. The students also had the chance to ask questions about topics they were interested in.

This workshop provided a platform for Indigenous teachers to share their wisdom and stories, while allowing non-Indigenous youth to participate in a meaningful and culturally enriching experience. By emphasizing the utilization of all parts of the deer, we recognized how Indigenous communities have lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years. Both my peers and I gained insight into their traditions, creativity, and ingenuity, and developed a deeper understanding of how they coexist harmoniously with nature, inspiring us to strive for the same. Witnessing the positive impact on participants from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds has further motivated me to continue advocating for reconciliation and environmental conservation.

The application process for the Roots & Shoots A.P.E. Fund grant was straightforward and accessible. I have always felt a cultural responsibility, but lacked the means to create projects in my community that would have a significant impact. The program’s flexibility allowed me to tailor the project to meet the specific needs of my community, while remaining aligned with the values of Roots & Shoots.

Through this workshop experience, I recognized the importance of diversity and cultural exchange in promoting unity and respect among communities. My peers and I are inspired to work towards more inclusive communities and organize similar events in the future, where the voices of Indigenous community members are given a platform to be heard.

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