Students sit around a campfire to hear elders’ stories, they receive lessons in hunting and boating safety, and they learn the importance of showing respect to the Earth for its bounty. All of these lessons are offered at Robert Service School in Dawson City, developed and delivered with its Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in partners.
At an even earlier age, our three- and four-year-olds learn many of these lessons at Nenä tthë Trinke-in, our very successful Aboriginal Head Start Program. Since 1998, these youngsters have been receiving a grounding in the Hän language and culture through stories, songs and games.
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in representatives are in the school at all Grade levels sharing First Nations messages in all subject areas. In 2013, we signed a landmark Education Agreement with the Government of Yukon making us full partners in the design, delivery and administration of programs within our Traditional Territory from kindergarten through Grade 12. This was the first agreement of its kind in the Yukon. According to Chief Ed Taylor: "With this Education Agreement we have reached a significant milestone with respect to the implementation of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Self-Government … We wanted a single integrated system that reflects both Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Yukon government authority as equal partners. This agreement puts us on that road."
We are committed to fostering land-based learning for all students so that they can learn about the land and appropriate behaviour while fishing, hunting, gathering and trapping. The very successful camps organized by Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in – First Hunt, Moose Hunt, First Fish and Spring Camp – have been accredited by the Department of Education. At these events, children and youth experience a mix of practical skills, lessons in stewardship and safety procedures, stories shared by elders and the exhilarating opportunity of living on the land in a meaningful way. We have helped develop curriculum on the residential school era. This is being taught to Grade 10 students but is also being introduced to earlier grades.
In the fall of 2012, we held an opening ceremony for an outdoor learning centre on school grounds. Łenä Tr’ëdëk or the Gathering Place is a canvas wall tent on school grounds in a park-like area of native trees, shrubs and medicinal plants. Many came together to fulfill this dream and we celebrated the funders, planners and workers who helped to make a sanctuary for our culture and traditional teachings.
We work with Yukon College to deliver programs and are proud to be an official partner in the Yukon School of Visual Arts along with the Dawson City Arts Society and Yukon College. While obtaining a foundation year certificate towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts, students experience the traditional territory and culture of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.
Grade 4 winter camp at Nӓnjӓk Ch’ëhòląy.