February Cultural Calendar Ideas

Welcoming to the Month from AHS Advisor Dana Gustafson Tl’aamin ​Nation.

Sotɩč is the word for Winter to the ʔayʔaǰuθəm speaking people of ɬəʔamɛn (Tla’amin), kómoks (Comox), χʷɛmaɬkʷu (Homalco), and ƛohos (Klahoose). Sotɩč is a time of rest and celebration, where families get together to reconnect and share stories and time with one another. During Sotɩč, many feasts are shared around the table with family and friends, as well as the sharing of food with loved ones who are now in the spirit world. Ceremonial burnings are done for our ancestors and can be done anytime but are usually connected with special events or occasions that are of importance to the family and led by our ƛaχƛaχay (Elders) or Knowledge Keepers. 

Sotɩč is also the time of year when we rely on the traditional food that has been harvested earlier in the year and preserved such as berries, dried, smoked, and jarred salmon. Families will use their berries to add dessert to the family feasts, and salmon is used in many ways. Some communities are fortunate and can distribute Sotɩč food baskets full of traditional food items to support families through the cold months ahead. We love the Sotɩč season and celebrations, but we also look forward to ƛiʔčos (Spring) and the awakening of Mother Earth. 

Community Teachings & Opportunities:

In British Columbia, Family Day is on February 19th, 2024, this year, making February an ideal time to explore traditional parenting teachings in your community. AHSABC continues to host and provide ‘Traditional Parenting by Janet Fox Facilitator Training,’ and we are proud to host our 4th session this month. 

We would like to take this time to honour the late Janet Fox Pon and her important teachings! She was a Cree Elder/Knowledge Keeper who was dedicated to reconnecting with Cree ways to support the continuation of Indigenous parenting in communities across the country. It was her belief the reconnection of these ways are part of the healthy path.

In many Indigenous cultures, there is a special word with spiritual meaning to refer to the person after they have passed on to the spiritual world. Non-Indigenous people may use the words the late and deceased, but this is not the case for most Indigenous nations. (In Cree it is Pun some people may spell it as Pon which means they have become a part of the spirit world.) (Teaching from Dr./Cree Elder Winston Wuttunee Red Pheasant First Nation) Winston has assisted with ‘Traditional Parenting Training by Janet Fox’ for seven years, two with AHSABC.

AHSABC offers this training throughout the year and encourages programs to create training – tailored to each local nation’s parenting practices. AHS programs across the province offer vital support to families on their parenting journey. Embracing Indigenous parenting practices helps families reconnect with their culture and strengthen their parenting skills. If your program has not enrolled in this training yet and is interested or needs additional support, please contact Michelle Gravelle: ecespecialist@www.ahsabc.com. 

Parenting tools and teachings discussed in the Janet Fox Traditional Parenting Program are also important for the children to participate in the AHS program environment. Children love to have these experiences and are proud to share these teachings with their families. These teachings can be woven into your daily conversations with program staff and families. 

For example, one of the parenting tools covered in the program is the baby swing. 

Teaching from Tansi Friendship Centre Society & Lake Babine Dakelh Elder Dorothy Williams:

The team at Tansi AHS in Chetwynd BC drew inspiration from the Traditional Parenting by Janet Fox Training and incorporated many teachings in the classroom! With permission from their Licensing Officer, the baby swing known as Wîwîp’son in the Cree language, to their classroom. 

Elder Dorothy at Little Cubs AHS shared her knowledge of Indigenous baby swings. In Indigenous communities, “swinging” infants has been a long-standing cultural way of being. It serves to soothe infants, promote peaceful sleep, and provide them with loving and gentle care. Swinging holds deep significance as it allows infants to reconnect with their ancestral heritage, spiritual essence, and fosters harmony within their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual realms. Particularly for individuals who have missed experiencing and learning these ways due to circumstances such as institutionalization, residential schools, or the 60’s scoop, this practice is believed to be especially beneficial. 

 

In mainstream society, various ‘motion therapies’ resemble this practice and are employed to enhance physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Extensive research in this field has revealed numerous health benefits. Indigenous swing therapy, derived from teachings since time immemorial, stands as a healing method that offers much-needed affection and care, sorely absent in contemporary society. Elder Dorothy also shared her personal experience with the nebelh’, baby swings in the Nedut’en Dialect. 

Jessie Louie, from Klahoose First Nation, remembers being six years old in 1959, watching her dad make a swing for her baby brother. “My dad made one for my mom over their bed where she could put a cedar baby basket in it,” she recalls. Her parents, Johnny Alex Louie and Emma Theresa Louie were both from Toba Inlet and had 10 children. “It was made from rope that could pulley the swing up and down,” and she remembers pushing the swing back and forth with her sisters to help with her brother.” Jessie is now a grandmother to seven, and a great-grandmother to two. She has dedicated her life to preserving her language and walking a good path. 

Dramatic Play:

In your dramatic play area, consider adding cultural parenting items from your nation, such as baby moss bags, baby swings, baby belts, Inuit coats (Amautis), wooden baby sleds, and traditional clothing for dolls. You can also incorporate items like baby bonnets, cedar hats, and historical archive pictures from your local nation, laminated and posted at the child’s eye level.  

Books for children on Traditional Parenting Practices to add to your Early Childhood Environment.

February Programming Ideas:

In the AHS program environment, February is a month to continue Winter teachings and explore topics like sharing, love, and family more closely. You can focus on red, associated with these teachings from your local nation(s) and explore other colours on the medicine wheel. Medicine wheel colours may vary depending on the nation. 

​​​In Cree, February is referred to as Mikisiwi-Pisim, the eagle moon. In many areas across the province of BC and in other places in Canada, this is the month when eagles are visible in large numbers due to it being mating season. 

Circle Time:

Read stories on the eagle this month. Sing action songs that have children fly like eagles! Host Elders and Knowledge Keepers in to talk about the behaviours of eagles, what they eat, how they hunt and spiritual practices.

February Science Ideas:

 

  • ​​​At circle time bring out an outside weather thermometer discuss what a thermometer is and how it checks the temperature.​​ 

​​​Follow up outside with a thermometer that is in the outdoors and have the children help guess the temperature.​​ 

  • ​​​Look in your community for areas prevalent for eagles and safe to bring the children to explore. Have them look for eagles, watch their flying patterns, look for feathers etc.​​ 

​​​Follow up with discussions on:​​ 

  • ​​​How do birds stay warm in the winter?
  • Why are feathers waterproof?​​ 
  • ​​​How do feathers help birds to fly?  
  • What are bird’s nests made of?​ 

Outdoor Ideas: 

Birdwatching for eagles can be a fascinating and educational experience. You can also incorporate nature-based activities that promote self-regulation, such as silent study or sensory wake-up activities. These activities encourage children to slow down, observe their surroundings, and engage their senses in nature. 

Silent Study:

Here is a wonderful activity for you and children to slow down, relax and immerse yourself in your surroundings with them. Start with short periods of silence where children sit quietly and listen to the outdoor sounds. Choose a spot where you can observe items in nature. After they have had their moments of silent study, they can draw what they saw or heard. You can gradually extend the duration as the group becomes more comfortable with this activity. To begin, you may open this activity with a land acknowledgement or express gratitude through words or songs in your Indigenous language or share a land offering. Creating a routine for this activity can enhance your connection with nature-like the skills acquired by children out on the land hunting, trapping, fishing, berry picking, or fixing hides.

  

Sensory Wake Up:

Encourage children to engage their senses in nature walking or exploring, through verbal cues or songs.

What do you:

  • Hear?
  • Smell?
  • See?
  • Taste?
  • Feel?

Creating awareness and responsiveness while on the land while giving an opportunity to add vocabulary in both Indigenous language and scientific terms for plants or natural processes, for example. 

 

Walking Meditation:

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can easily be woven into a nature walk. Walking slowly and carefully like a turtle, or at a light and gentle pace like a fox. Listening quietly to nature as they walk, and topping frequently to touch and wonder about different items on the ground, smelling and putting their hand on their chest to feel their heartbeat while taking different types of breath, they can feel themselves exhaling. Ask for observations and reflections at the end of the walk! Start with small periods of time and increase as familiarity and rhythm grows.

For more ideas, check out Heartbeat of the Earth: https://outdoorlearningstore.com/product/heartbeat-of-the-earth/

A handbook on Connecting Children to Nature through Indigenous Teachings by Wes Snukwa7, a Nlaka’pamux photographer and Launa Purcell, an Indigenous educator who runs outdoor camps and teaches child yoga. This easy-to-read, 80-page handbook is full of a wide range of activities and photos for children of all ages inspired by Indigenous teachings from across the province.

Lofty Ideas:

Eagles are nesting this month and can be seen in large groups. This is a great month to turn your loft into an eagle’s nest. Have the children help fill the top of the loft (Nest) with comfortable pillows and other items that they think the birds would need. Add eagle stuffed animals or puppets, wooden or plastic eggs, plastic worms and bugs and other items the children suggest. The bottom of the loft can contain pictures of the eagles and a science table can be set up with eagle feathers and magnifying glasses etc. Hang up the word for eagle or eagles’ nest in large letters in your community’s Indigenous language for the children to see every time they play in “the nest.” For programs that do not have a loft, this project can easily be built out of pillows and a blanket on the floor on a tarp or in a large box. 

Literacy, Innovative Idea:

Bring literacy outdoors in this outdoor activity that was created by Elder Shirley Salmond & the Sas Natsadle AHS team in Fort St. John! 

Reading the story, The Giving Tree, by Metis Author Leah Dorion: https://gdins.org/product/the-giving-tree-a-retelling-of-a-traditional-metis-story/

Elder Shirley explained, “It was such a unique experience giving back (offering) to Mother Earth! The teachers gathered as many items as they could that were listed in the book, to offer to our tree.” 

Overview of Story: This charming story, richly steeped in Métis culture, focuses on the boyhood reminiscences of Moushoom as he describes finding the “great giving tree” with his parents.

Themes in this book:

  • Métis values, especially honesty/respect
  • Nature/trees/habitat/animal homes
  • Mentorship
  • Travel
  • Storytelling
  • Foods/healthy eating
  • Identity and culture
  • Symbols: Language Arts
  • Listen, comprehend, and respond
  • Compose and create science
  • Interdependence among plants, individuals, society, and environment
  • Ecosystems/arts/education
  • Maintaining a healthy body
  • Community/needs and wants

 

Outreach & Activity Kits:

Make a homemade game that teaches traditional language and helps children strengthen other skills. This can be a counting game, sequencing game, memory game etc. Send this game home with an Indigenous recipe and ingredients, (Bison spaghetti, Elk soup, cornbread etc.) a swim pass or a pass for another family activity in the community, family craft activity and any other items you think families would enjoy for their family day holiday! 

 

Parent Involvement:

On February 19th BC celebrates Provincial Family Day!

Programs can: 

  • Make a family board dedicated to this day with Indigenous teachings, family photos
  • and opportunities for families to celebrate in the community.
  • Post opportunities on program web pages, in your monthly newsletter, social media pages and on program apps such as Dojo or Hi Mama! 
  • Celebrate each family by making a family tree display in your program!
  • Hosting a family feast or family activity day this month! 
  • Invite families to join for a special lunch or craft activity!
  • Host a family picture opportunity! 
  • Have Elders and Knowledge Keepers host a gathering for children and families to focus on the teaching of their nation(s) spiritual beliefs and protocols on the eagle. The eagle is important to most Indigenous nations.

For more information on Family Day in BC please check the following link: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/celebrating-british-columbia/bc-family-day

Elder Involvement:

Consider inviting Elders to be part of team-building days, PAC meetings, and staff meetings. AHS mentor Sheena Rogers explains, Elders can provide valuable insights, guidance, and support in various aspects of AHS programming, including cultural activities, protocols, values, and relationships. Their presence can significantly contribute to the success of meetings and discussions on important topics. Sheena gives an example, “We had a family who was having some struggles, and we were trying to support them. We held a meeting with the caregiver, the Elder and me. The Elder changed the dynamic of the room and added valuable information to the conversation, and I felt like the meeting was more successful because of their presence. “

Cooking, Food Prep:

February is a great month to bake nutritious muffins with the children. Look for muffin recipes that are low in sugar and feature natural sweeteners such as applesauce. Feature two different muffins a week and create a muffin recipe book for each child to take home. Identify each child’s favorite recipe. Try adding ingredients that were picked and then preserved by drying, freezing, or canning in the summer. These ingredients are widely used in Indigenous communities such as mountain blueberries, huckleberries, saskatoons, high bush cranberries, salal, salmon berries and cloudberries as these are all high in Vitamin C.

Create a food board at the entrance of your building highlighting recipes that the children have eaten that contain food ingredients from their lands and waters. 

 

Recipe of the Month: 

This Month’s recipe of choice comes to us from the Team at Strong Nations. February is a month that many nations bring out canned and preserved foods from the summer and fall. Canned soap berries can be used to make the perfect February treat to bring back the taste of the freshness of ripe summer berries. 

The following has been adapted from a recipe by Florence Burton-Kincolith and Judith Joe-Shalus in the cookbook Indian Food: A Cookbook of Native Foods from British Columbia.

Indian Ice Cream Recipe:

Indian ice cream is a traditional fruit dish made from soopallalie (buffalo or soap) berries. Long ago, these berries were collected by placing a cedar bark mat under the soopallalie bushes and then hitting the bushes, causing the berries to fall onto the mat. The gathered berries were put into wooden boxes made especially for carrying berries. Following collection, the berries were rolled down a damp board. The berries would fall into a basket, but the twigs, leaves, and dirt would stick to the plank. Before the advent of mixers, people used their hands to whip up the berries. They would scrub their hands and arms, as well as the boxes used to make the ice cream, to ensure that no grease contacted the berries. Grease would prevent foam formation. 

 

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons canned soopallalie berries 
  • 1/4 cup water 
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar 

 

Directions 

  1. In a clean metal, porcelain, or glass bowl combine 2 tablespoons canned soopallalie berries with 1/4 cup water. 
  2. Using a mixer, beat the berries until a foam forms. Gradually add 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar (up to 1/2 cup may be added if desired). 
  3. Continue beating until the foam is stiff. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6. 

 

Note: If using fresh berries, 1 cup of fresh berries is equivalent to 2 tablespoons of canned berries. Crush 2 tablespoons of fresh berries and mix with 1/4 cup of cold water. Begin beating the mixture, then add the remainder of the fresh berries. Follow the above recipe beginning at step 2. 

Art Centre:

As it is a new month, please consider adding new additions to your art idea that will incorporate fresh ideas for February.

For your art area, consider these ideas: 

  • Simulated eagle feathers and smaller simulated feathers in natural colours like black, different shades of brown, white, etc. 
  • Red, pink, and medicine wheel colours of cellophane, felt, pipe cleaners, cardstock, paper, etc. 
  • Paints in the medicine wheel colours and materials cut into circles for creative projects. 

Create a flyer and post asking parents to send in materials recycled from their homes! 

Encourage parent participation by collecting materials like wrapping paper, paper towel tubes, plastic container lids styrofoam containers, juice can lids, fruit cup or yogurt containers, unused materials or hide odds and ends, extra pieces of wool and furs, buttons, lace, ribbon, jingles, and more.

Craft Ideas:

With Family Day in the middle of the month, it is an excellent opportunity to incorporate the family unit into your craft projects. 

  • Consider hosting cultural or creative craft opportunities for the whole family, with activities for moms, dads, and families together.
  • You can have children decorate picture frames for family photos, create family trees using their handprints, make family-themed magnets using juice can lids, and more. 

Block Play:

Put foam blocks in the water table this month. Encourage children to build structures but instead of a steady surface they will be challenging their skills by building on top of water. As children try to build and test new ideas, they add to their knowledge of the properties of water. This will also further develop reasoning and other cognitive development skills. As the children are building with blocks an educator can help them practice their colours in the program’s Indigenous Language of choice.

Sensory: 

For a quiet sensory activity that promotes pre-school readiness, fill smaller bins of sand with scrabble alphabets. Provide shovels and tools for digging, and have children dig out letters. This activity can be a one-on-one experience where children recognize letters, spell their names, or form simple words. 

Sensory dough can be a fun and engaging activity. Explore various sensory dough recipes for February, such as Valentine’s Day Frozen Sensory Dough or rose-scented playdough. 

Book recommendations for this month come from the team at Strong Nations Publishing. They offer a selection of Indigenous-themed books, including:

These books cover a range of important topics and teachings for children. We are thankful to the team at Strong Nations for going above and beyond to help secure resources for AHSABC project and initiatives such as the Cultural Calendar Seasonal Kits that have been gifted to centres across the province.  

 

AHSABC Book of the Month:

Title: When we Had Sled Dogs

Author: Ida Tremblay

This story contains words and phrases in Plains Cree. It is told by Elder Ida Tremblay and shares her seasonal memories as a child from the trapline. This story shares a journey into the past where sled dogs were a way of life in Northern Saskatchewan.

AHSABC is very proud to have included this story in our Winter Solstice kits that went out to centers across the province!

Health Link of the Month:

At AHS programs across the province, program teams work hard to provide wrap-around social support to families. Here is a recommended health link that has a brochure for displaying!