COPA shares existing, new resources in Sioux Lookout
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Parents, local service providers and residents in Sioux Lookout watched, and participated in, presentations from members of COPA (Centre Ontarien de Prevention des Aggressions) on Jan. 14.
The presentations explored COPA’s existing resources like their Joining the Circle toolkit, which helps educators to support First Nations, Metis, and Inuit youth. The kit features 21 short videos that are available in French, English, and seven Indigenous languages including Cree, Ojibway, and Oji-Cree.
The presentations also explored new resources like their Caring is the Universal Language story books, which are three separate stories compiled into one book.
COPA’s website reads, “COPA has created a collection of illustrated storybooks for young children translated into seven Indigenous languages: Cree, Inuktitut, Michif, Mohawk, Oji-Cree, Ojibwe and Oneida. They include gentle messages of listening, kindness, caring, compassion and courage.”
Due to the success of past toolkits and resources, COPA was asked to create these storybooks as well as have more gatherings in communities and social media promotion for the resources.
“The storybooks are one part of a continuing evolution of resources over six to seven years. The actual process of creating the storybooks was about a year,” said COPA representative Mohini Athia.
“What we did was we went to our advisory council, who gave suggestions on how to adapt the existing storybooks that we had for Indigenous content,” she continued.
Sioux Lookout was just the second place to see the new storybooks after the initial launch, which was in Kingston, Ontario. Athia shared that, so far, the storybooks are receiving great feedback.
“The response has been really great already…The feedback has been amazing. Because we take a lot of care and we’ve been building relationships over the last seven years with elders, that’s why the resources get such great feedback. They’ve been developed in communities…It’s a constant flow of communication and relationship building,” she said.
“I think it’s very useful for Indigenous language as a first language, but it’s also great for families to introduce a little bit of language to their children,” said Candi Edwards, SMPS Parent Council Chair, who arranged previous COPA presentations in Sioux Lookout back in 2017.
When asked about the efforts that have been underway in Sioux Lookout classrooms to incorporate culture and cultural teachings, both Edwards and Athia praised Sioux Mountain Public School.
“I think that Sioux Mountain, in particular, has done a really commendable job at bringing culture into the classroom. We’ve had teachers speak of decolonizing their classrooms, and I think that’s a really powerful thought and process. It’s not something that happens overnight, but many people who work within the school are committed to that and to really insuring that our Indigenous students are supported. At Sioux Mountain, it’s 85 per cent or upward of self-identified Indigenous students and I think, given the vast numbers who identify as Indigenous, that whatever we can do to help promote culture, tradition, land-based activities, all of those things benefit all students,” shared Edwards.
“What we’ve seen at Sioux Mountain and the work that Candi is sharing, and so many other people are doing, is so positive. There’s a lot of care and attention and connection. It seems like so much is being done from the very moment we walk in to the school and the things that we see visually. These things don’t happen overnight, so it seems very obvious that people have been working very hard over a long time,” said Athia.
Edwards finished by drawing attention to the partnerships between different agencies in town who work to support the youth.
“I think that we’re very fortunate in Sioux Lookout to have the really strong partnerships between our agencies that also support youth (such as, The Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, the Ontario Native Women’s Association, and Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle) and there’s a lot of benefits into incorporating that into the schools, so students are much more likely to feel comfortable accessing programs in support if they’re already familiar with people. Everything is relationship based and, if we have a chance to build those relationships in the school’s first, then we’re making it a lot more accessible for students to get out to those programs or to be willing to attend things outside of the school as well,” she concluded.
All of COPA’s resources are free online.
To access the storybooks and other resources, visit www.copahabitat.ca.