The history of White Bear is deep and rich, filled with tales that often times go untold, the grade four and five students from the White Bear Education Complex however are keeping their history relevant by telling the story of their people in a unique way.
The school is a part of the Treaty 4 Success program, an organization that seeks to design and implement a common strategy with the goal of First Nation student success through student retention, literacy, numeracy, and community engagement. The students along with renowned White Bear artist Michael Lonechild recently published a book with art work detailing the history of White Bear First Nations. The book, entitled "White Bear First Nations" was featured at a gallery showing held at the Treaty 4 Governance Centre Tipi in Fort Qu'Appelle on Tuesday, May 13. The White Bear Education Complex is one of 11 schools that participate in the program and executive director at Treaty 4 Success Lori Whiteman said she is proud of the work the grade five students at White Bear have done and spoke to the importance of the program.
"First and foremost it allows First Nations on reserve schools to take ownership of curriculum of teaching and learning within their schools so that it really focuses on building healthy and positive self identity in young children," she said
"And it reinforces that it's a valid history and valid story to be told from each of the communities and each of those children is connected to those stories. It's important for them to learn about that early in their education and to learn about it continuously throughout their learning experience in a First Nation school."
Michael Lonechild has been an employee with Treaty 4 Success for the last four years as the organization's artist in-residence and said throughout the years they've organized various programs for youth but wanted to do something different this year. Lonechild who is also from White Bear and explained they chose to focus on history and how First Nations people came to live on reservations. White Bear was the first school to start the program and their book will be used as a prototype for other participating schools which will be from the prospective of a grade five student.
"It's a great idea, it's a great way to teach the people here at the reserve, especially the young people and we chose grade fives because they are getting to that stage where they're really getting curious, their attention span is better, they're more interested and really want to learn something," he said.
The book tells the story of how the Creator, forged the land and it was given to the First Nation people and they were to use only what they needed and taught they were equal to the land. It then speaks of the European newcomers and treaties formed and the struggles they faced during that period. The story develops detailing the changes and how the First Nations people have progressed since that time period.
Tracey Beaulieu, teacher of the grade five class at the White Bear Education Complex said the students were very enthusiastic about the book's success.
"They were very interested in the history of White Bear. They think it's important to know who they are and where they come from, so they tackled it quite enthusiastically," Beaulieu said.
Several chiefs, councillors and elders of White Bear First Nations attended the event and each student received a certificate as well as a copy of the book.