July Cultural Calendar Ideas

For some nations July is known as the Moulting Moon. It’s a busy month, with families out on the land gathering, camping, celebrating and harvesting. In some territories, moose are in rivers and lakes taking refuge from all the flies. Saskatoon berries and low bush cranberries are ready to be harvested by the end of July.  

It’s also canoe journey time! Coastal communities are getting their large ocean-going canoes and canoe families ready for the annual Tribal Canoe Journey. Canoe families travel the waters meeting and being joined by neighboring canoe families, pulling together until they reach their destination.  Since time immemorial along the NorthWest Pacific coast, the ocean-going canoe was essential for sustenance, transport, and for developing ceremonial life and social connections.

Every July, thousands of paddlers join in the first Tribal Canoe Journey. The first was part of Expo 86, and the first Qatuwas (Heiltsuk, ‘people gathering together’) in 1993 became an annual journey. The resurgence of Indigenous canoe cultures is a powerful example of Indigenous Peoples’ ability to adapt, adopt, and transform over time.

Canoe families travel the waters meeting and being joined by neighboring canoe families, pulling together until they reach their destination, a host community.

Witnessing an ocean full of canoes lined up to be invited to come ashore and share food, lodging, drumming, and singing is a powerful image. Rich protocols are observed, sharing songs and dances in regalia.

Pulling a canoe together for several weeks  helps reconnect youth with the land, sea, and ancient practices. Check out this beautiful resource of seven fundamental truths from Knowledge Keepers, that have guided coastal nations for thousands of years.

Nunavut Day- July 5th celebrates the Nunavut land claim being signed! It is a statutory holiday and Inuit people from this territory will widely celebrate by being out on the land to share in its immense beauty. Did you know that Nunavut has 7 AHS programs throughout its territory? We are thankful to Inuit Elders who share their culture such as Elder Diane from Treasure Our Young Ones AHS in Port Alberni. She is from Panituuq, Nunavut and enjoys sharing her culture and language with the children and staff in the program. “I love working at the Head Start Program, it is like revitalizing culture every time I walk in here,” she proudly states. “I love teaching the children one word a week in my language Inuktitut, also sharing stories and songs in Inuktitut.” Thank you to Elder Diane for her continuous participation at her AHS program.

July Programming Preparations  

Programming in July should be planned to consist of community activities, time out on the land for gathering, time out in outdoor play areas in the sun and shade, hosting local crafts people in the outdoor area and exploring natural materials to use for all programming realms as well as outdoor celebrations and physical movement activities with children, Elders and families!  To continue building on Inuit programming ideas try sending home recipes and ingredients to families to expose to Inuit foods, serve traditional Inuit foods at the center and offer summer books focused on life in the Arctic. Indigenous foods in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are referred to as “Country Foods”.  Do you have any “Country Food” recipes at your center that you use or that you send home to families to encourage this style of cooking?

Craft/ Sensory ideas: Host craft and sensory time in the outdoors. If it is raining, have a covered area outside where children can still do these activities but experience the sights, smells, and sounds the rain brings.  Children can learn how to dehydrate flowers, make dyes out of plants in their garden to use for their crafting projects while outside.

Nature Inspired Bookmarks, place mats, name plates 

A craft that children and educators can do together is to make large bookmarks/ name plates with the child’s name and then the child picks out their favourite dried flowers and with help of an educator either irons this together or uses a clear adhesive mactac to laminate together for continuous use. If there is an abundance of dried flowers, then placemats can even be made! This is a great way for children to be a part of making a visual representation of the spelling of their name for programming purposes. 

Cooking/ Food Prep:  

Have an Elder/ Knowledge Keeper/ Indigenous chef demonstrate how to cut wild meat and fish in front of the children.  

They can learn different parts of the fish and see where the fish eggs are kept.This is a great activity to do outside, check out skills resource here.

Elders and Knowledge Keepers can be consulted on preparing fish eggs for the children to try!  

Have the children learn how to dehydrate different fruits and vegetables such as berries and corn.

Harvest Dandelions with children and Elders from a natural area (no pesticides, ideally from a road with less than 8 vehicles per hour) and make items such as dandelion tea, cake and jelly! 

Science topics to explore for the month of July:

Take Science outdoors and spend time and plan activities on the identification of traditional plants and medicines. Each AHS site was gifted the book: Medicines to Help Us: Traditional Métis Plant Use

Another guide, from a Squamish perspective that comes with a handy card deck to take on walks.

There is also the following guide for children that may be helpful:  

Educator’s resource.

Most importantly, with your local nations to see if they have Elders who can take you on a medicine walk and give local teachings.  Please remember to follow your communities Traditional Protocols when collecting, picking and harvesting traditional plants, foods and medicines.

Playful additions:

Building Block/ Construction Area:  

Bring the blocks/ construction materials outdoors on a picnic blanket for children to add items from nature as they feel inspired to.

Dramatic Play Area:

Add a real canoe or make a canoe out of boxes to add to your dramatic play area. Include paddles, nets and things you would find on a canoe, make a crab pot so the children can pretend they are casting the pot in the ocean and catching crabs, shovels and buckets, shells for the children to pretend they are digging clams etc. big pots and aprons, oven mitts to pretend they are cooking the food they catch over a fire.


Innovative Idea

Elder Shirley at the Sas Natsadle Pre-school brought dramatic play outdoors. She recycled materials to re-create a pretend fire the children helped build the “fire” and then learnt about fire safety they then were given stick and “roasted marshmallows” as a special treat on the fire they created.

Art Centre:
Bring art outdoors: it can be done by hanging paper/ canvas / material on fences, at a picnic table, on blankets etc. be super creative! Children can use spray bottles, large paint brushes, sponges, glue and items from nature etc to make works of art. Host artisans such as carvers, basket makers, other Indigenous crafters, outside so the children can watch the traditional handy work be made. Have construction items such as popsicle sticks, cardboard, pieces of canvas, soap and butter knives, clay available, materials for weaving for children to re-create the processes they see.

Reading Area:  Have a canvas tent, teepee, tarp outside and fill with pillows and books so that the children can have a quiet place to read outside.  Have a selection of children’s books on plants and medicines.  Book ideas: 

  1. Sweetgrass by Theresa Meuse (previously gifted to each center)
  2. Kwakwaka’wakw :  Our traditional medicines. 
  3. Smudging and the four sacred medicines by Sandra Samatte 
  4. Plants of Nunavut by Carolyn Mallory 
  5. Can you hear the plants speak by Nicholas Hummingbird? 

Outdoor Ideas:   Have an Elder/Knowledge Keeper make a hide stretcher in front of the children and they can watch the process of a hide being prepared throughout the summer. 

Outdoor Early Education Conference opportunity for those wanting to strengthen their outdoor programming skills: 

Circle time:

Host circle time in different outdoor venues to show the children flexibility in their environment. This can be in the playground, beach/ park/ lake, at a historical site, out on the land on traditional territory. Use the environment to influence your choice of songs and activities.  

Elder involvement:

Have Elders /Knowledge Keepers demonstrate different traditional skills. This could be at a special evening for families, during the day with the children and then put on video tape to be posted on the sites social media page or emailed to families, made into a cd or book to be sent home to families. 

  • Have an Elder/ Knowledge Keeper in to make birch bark canoes with children and families then go on a walk to float them in a nearby area.   

    The children can also learn how to braid sweetgrass, dry tobacco, sage and cedar while learning traditional protocols.   

Parent Involvement Ideas

Parent Board:  Have each family send in a picture of their favourite place and activity to do in the summer.  

Have a different parent in each week to lead an activity of their choice in the outdoors. Have guest speakers / social media posts/ emails to talk to children/ families about water and boating safety as well as Sun Safety.  

This could be a public health nurse, coast guard, or Elder for example.  

Offer the opportunity for parents to take the boating license/ safety course.

Send home a sun safety pkg: extra hat, hypo-allergenic sunscreen and easy to read sun safety facts.

Outreach / Activity kits:

  1. Create a lending library!
  • Fill it with things such as stories, sensory bins, playdough recipes and ingredients, clay and rollers, age-appropriate family games, fishing poles and other outdoor items that families may not have. Weekly themed craft and baking kits can be added. These can include items such as pine needle basking making supplies, bird feeder making supplies, beading and dream catcher making supplies.
  • Send home items from the garden with recipes and nutritional information.

Host a special day in celebration of the Summer Season.  

Ideas could be:   

  1. a family movie night outside or a cultural performance outdoors.  
  2. a traditional activities demonstration evening events could be moose hide preparing, canning jams, jellies, drying traditional medicines, how to cut and dry meat and fish, how to cook smoked salmon on cedar planks, crafts such as moose hair tufting, how to dye moose hair and porcupine quills, how to set up a canvas tent or a teepee, or teepee pole teachings.   
  3. An evening around the fire somewhere in community with traditional foods and story tellers.  
  4. An afternoon family event at a field with traditional games, burlap sack races, tug of war, Metis cart races, string games, card and dice games, hand games, canoe race, teepee building contest and more.  


Take children/ families/ elders out for a fun filled summer day outdoors:  

A day at the beach/ local lake/river, whale watching trip, visit to a community garden, berry picking or medicine gathering, a day out on the land preparing fish and meat, trip to a historical site, a day at a special event such as a a festival, Jamboree or Pow Wow.  

Lofty Ideas:  Decorate your loft to resemble a canoe, hang fishing nets with sea life such as shells, clams, octopus, crabs, variety of fish. Have paddles, sunglasses, fishing hats, life jackets for the children to use to add to their play.   

Other Helpful Resources and related articles: 

  1. Home | allnationspaddlesup 
  2. EA_indigenous-games-for-children-en.pdf (csf.bc.ca) 
  3. Bing Videos 
  4. Early Childhood Educators – Child and Nature Alliance of Canada (childnature.ca) 
  5. Akutaq Recipe: A Traditional Inuit Delicacy (culinarybite.com) 

Recommended children’s books/ resource books: 

  1. Dipnetting with Dad Willie Sellars,Kevin Easthope 
  2. Making a Canoe Bill Helin  
  3. Returning to the Yakoun River Sara Florence Davidson, Robert Davidson, Janine Gibbons 
  4. Grandfather Bowhead Tell me a Story Aviaq Johnson,Tamara Campeau 
  5. Kakivaak Levi Illutok An easy-to-read story to learn about a traditional Inuit fishing tool!

Books of the Month  

I am a rock Ashley Quilivaq- Savard 

I Am A Rock – Inhabit Media (inhabitbooks.com)
A sweet story of an Inuit boy and his pet rock. The boy gets to see Arctic life through the eyes of the rock.  The reader will learn about arctic wildlife and vegetation at an early level.

Recipe of the month:  Arctic Char In A Bannock Blanket 

Check out vendor’s list for where to find arctic char, and other “Country Foods”

“Country Foods” Link:
AYAYA | NTI Nunavut Day Cookbook