May 19, 2022 (Akwesasne, ON) – Thirty-six Akwesasne students from Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School (CCVS) returned today from a three-day, for-credit experience at the Thompson Island Cultural Camp, also known as Ionkwa’nikonri:io.
All CCVS students who are part of the Akwesasne Mohawk Board of Education (AMBE) had the opportunity to sign up for this trip.
“I had some students hand me their forms just before we left, very excited to be able to join us,” says Principal of Indigenous Education Kelty Grant.
The group arrived to the Akwesasne island in the morning on Tuesday, May 17 by boat, and were immediately immersed in Mohawk culture. They took part in traditional lessons, games, storytelling, a seed ceremony, and at night, put fishing lines out in hopes of catching a sturgeon.
On Wednesday morning, the group was joined by Director Ron Ferguson, Chair John McAllister, Executive Superintendent Eric Hardie and five Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) Trustees to witness more storytelling and a medicine walk.
“This trip has been so valuable,” says Grade 10 CCVS student Alden Thompson. “We’ve had so many connections with our culture and elders.”
Agreeing with his classmate, Grade 10 CCVS student Ryan Barnes says that his favourite part of the camp was “learning our old ways.” Barnes said that he would jump at the opportunity to come to Thompson Island again later in his high school career.
This is the first year that the UCDSB’s Indigenous Education team has offered this unique program, with plans to continue it annually and expand to other Indigenous students.
“We hear about decolonizing the curriculum, and this real-world learning experience is one way we can achieve this,” says Hardie. “The learning taking place here is so valuable – these students are learning about their culture in ways that can’t be taught in a classroom.”
All 36 students will be gaining a Grade 11 high school credit upon completion of this real-world experience.