September Cultural Calendar Ideas

September’s full moon is the Harvest Moon, which is closest to the Fall Equinox. 

This moon is known by many names:  

  • Waatebagaa-giziis, Bright Leaves Moon (Anishinaabe) 
  • Canwápegi Wi, Moon of Brown Leaves (Lakota) 
  • Nochitowi-Pisim, Mating Moon (Cree) September is when many animals–moose, elk and deer are looking for a mate. “Nochitowi- Pisim”
  • Dis yadi, Child Moon/Weaning Moon (Tlingit) Young animals are weaned this month.
  • CENQOLEW, When Dog Salmon return to earth (W̱SÁNEĆ) 

Things to consider this month:

  • How is the month of September translated in the territory your program is in 
  • What is happening in nature right now, where you are? What word would you give it? 
  • What do the children suggest?

Turtle Teachings

The back of the turtle has 13 marks, which represent the 13 moons that many nations have. In the time of our Ancestors, there were no physical calendars – the moons, changing seasons, and associated activities marked times of the year.  

These teachings were outlawed through colonization – however many nations are bringing these teaching back. 

There are 28 marks outside the turtle shell representing the 28-day moon cycle. The Moon circles mother earth every 28 days. When the moon circles there is a gravitational pull, especially on water such as lakes and oceans. The moon causes tides, creating a rhythm that has guided humans for thousands of years. We are also made with water, and we can also feel this gravitational pull.  The moon is our teacher and is closely linked to women and women’s medicine. For many nations, women are the “Keepers of the Water.” Most water life also spawns according to the cycles of the moon. 

Kinanaskomiten to Cree Elder Neegani Penasee Don Campbell for assisting with this month’s teachings, to inspire AHS Programs.

National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

At AHS we believe every day is a day for truth and reconciliation, this holiday is a good reminder to look at, evaluate and add to our resources and other offerings, to partner with other organizations, and to bring attention to this important topic. 

Gentle Truth Telling: Talking to the youngest in our community

Starting this journey can feel like a big hurdle. Our youngest community members also hear snippets of news or overhear older kids talking. 

Aboriginal Head Start’s child-centred programs set a goal of serving as a ‘village’ in the sense there is a shared care and responsibility for children by family, community Elders, and teachers. The intention of Restoring our Spirit is to reclaim what residential schools took away. 

Awasisak Achakos AHS staff shared guidance, “When we talk about residential school with our littles, we approach it by first talking about what we absolutely love about our school. We go around the circle and ask, what do you love about HeadStart? Sometimes it’s food. Sometimes it’s the singing and the dancing or learning to speak in Cree or Michif.”

These conversations form a foundation for Orange T-shirt day. Moving smoothly from celebrating what the young ones love about their school, to recognizing that, in the past, these things were not allowed at residential schools. There is a factual but careful sharing that “kids their age went to [residential] schools that didn’t allow them to sing in their language and they didn’t allow them to go to powwows, hoop dance or jig.”

Since the children are so young, that’s as far as the conversation goes. It’s presented as “Did you know?” and focus on the celebration that happens when children come together.


Author and familiar friend of AHSABC Monique Gray-Smith says she feels it’s her responsibility to provide gentle door openers for conversations and sharing hard truths of our collective history.

 She provides these concrete tips for creating safer spaces for these conversations happen.

 Who am I? “Knowing where you are at,” Smith says. Some people have a hesitancy to talk about residential schools if they are not part of their lived story. It’s ok to not know everything. The important thing is knowing now, together.

Go to Elders for guidance. Not everyone has this privilege, but if you have Elders, ask them what they think needs to happen for a conversation to feel safe.

Share that children were hurt, but without providing details of abuses. This is developmentally appropriate and as a rule it acknowledges kids are all coming from different experiences and information. “Hurt” to someone who knows about trauma will speak volumes. It’s just as strong to someone who doesn’t know “trauma.” The details will be asked later, when children are older and ready.

Human rights laws. Smith says it’s important to let children know there are laws in place now to protect children all over the world. This will let them know there has been forward movement, and they have a right to feel safe. 

Create a space for the conversation. This means turning electronics off. No TV. No phone ringing. No checking social media if it beeps. To respect the conversation is to give it full attention.

Find out what they know. Kids talk and they will hear things. Ask them what they know and work from there.

Why don’t they know? That question might be an expanded theme for older kids who ask why it’s not in schools. It’s key to tell kids there were deliberate attempts made to not disclose information about the residential school experience. The fact not everyone learned this in school is a huge part of the discussion.

Make sure it is a two-way conversation. Pause for their emotions to come out, and your own. It sets a good example for them—you are sad, hurt, overwhelmed. It’s human and healthy.

Sit close. Human contact will reduce cortisol levels that come with stress. Smith notes that is a need we can meet as simply as by holding their hands while we read or speak of residential schools.

Trauma runs deep with generations raised with the unwritten rules of residential schools: Don’t talk. Don’t trust. Don’t feel. Don’t love. Those rules penetrated so profoundly, says Smith.

“That’s why I think this was such an awakening right now. Because the truth is being told, the love is being felt. That’s why we have to make sure that the sacredness of those feelings is held up with dignity and that we listen.” 

“Hold space for those stories to be heard, honored and respected,” says Smith.

Read more in Gentle Truth Telling.


Across the country, hundreds of local activities will be taking place to commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools.    

Please check to see the most recent updates to Indigenous mental health supports, and Reconciliation Dialogue Guides. See also this Resource for educators and parents.

September Programming Preparations

As you start planning for September ask yourself and your team how you will incorporate the concepts of Truth and Reconciliation into your month? Who will you bring in to support these teachings and what resources will you use? 

How will you incorporate the 13 moons teachings for your nation(s) this month? What creative ideas and hands on approaches do you and your team have around this month moon(s). 

What on the land activities do you have locally that your program can participate in to reinforce cultural teachings for this season? 

In BC, the fall salmon run is from the end of September to the beginning of October. This provides a unique learning experience for children and families in the outdoors. Salmon has significant cultural importance to nations in BC. This is a great teaching opportunity for Elders, community members and parents to share their knowledge. Salmon teachings can be incorporated in all daily realms of a classroom!  Is your program able to see the salmon run in your community? Are there resources and or guests in community you can invite to help teach children about the importance of Salmon? 

Turtles are out enjoying the ponds before the colder weather arrives. 

Does your host nation(s) have turtle teachings?  If not do you have elders and or family members who come from nations that do have these teachings that can help you incorporate.

Crafts for September

Create a mural or an art project that shows cultural pride this can be displayed in honour of National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. 

Host a parent-child craft event – this can be at your Welcoming/Back to School Event, or can be a special lunch, or orientation day activity. 


  • Decorating a picture frame for a family photo, a traditional fall craft that little hands can help with, a turtle shaped rattle out of hide, decorating a fabric bag that can be left at the centre to hold spare clothes, or personalizing an orange shirt etc.
  • Make easy craft turtle rattles with the children that can be used at circle time for fun about learning about the importance of turtle through songs and stories.

Sensory Ideas

With the falling leaves and other natural items available due to the weather and season changing this is a great time to experience sensory play in the outdoors.

  • Raking leaves, jumping in leaf piles, collecting and sorting sticks, acorns, and leaves.
  • Use traditional language for colours and go on a scavenger hunt to find natural items in these colours. 
  • Fall-scented paints and playdough can be brought outdoors to paint with leaves or make leaf imprints in playdough.  Apple, pear, peach, pumpkin, are all great fall scented playdough ideas.

Cooking/Food Prep/Gathering

Plan fun and engaging ideas for the children to help prepare their food items.  

Invite Elders and knowledge keepers along with children to pick fruits, berries and forage out on the land. 

  • Jams and jellies, muffins, scones and loaves can be made with children and families out of these items. Create a documentation board as a visual display/presentation for children and families.
  • Gather the last of the seasonal herbs from the garden and send home with salad dressing ideas for families to make their own dressing that is fresh low and sugar and preservatives.
  • Take the children to the orchard/farmers market to get apples and pears. Make meals with children such as applesauce and canned pears or plums. 
  • Have the children husk their own corn in the water table and then have corn for snack. They can also husk the corn to make cornbread muffins.

Innovative Ideas

Awasisak Achakos (Kelowna) served children traditional meats and had children associate with a picture of the animal the meat came from. Shown is elk stew! 


Playful additions

Little Cub Fire truck photo 1 and LC Fire Truck photo 2

Building Block/ Construction Area 

Add items such as a train set, conductors’ hat, fireman and other community helpers’ hats and vehicles to the building block and construction area. Pictures of these community helpers actively working their trades at the children’s level will help children to expand their play opportunities and the stories and scenarios they create. 

Dramatic Play Area  

Make available a wide range of regalia available to try on with a mirror close by to look at themselves. Cedar hats, button blankets, moccasins and mukluks, Cowichan sweaters, and hats, pow wow regalia and ribbon shirts are some examples.  Have books and pictures that show Indigenous people in regalia and at ceremony/ events in the dramatic play area. 

Art Centre

  • Provide playdough, plasticine, markers, pencil crayons and paper, and yarn in a wide range of skin tones, eye colour and hair colours. 
  • Include popsicle sticks, paper bags and other items children can make puppets out of. 
  • Post the names of assorted colours at the children’s level and in traditional language.
  • Use fallen leaves from the ground to make artistic creations these can be glued on canvas, used to make designs on wax paper etc. 
  • Make a mural depicting the fall salmon run – have the children create salmon in a variety of ways to add to this mural.

Reading Area

Provide comfortable items such as pillows and furs in the reading area, with a wide range of big books, regular books, and board books. Include flannel stories and listening stories. Consider having books that depict the salmon run and have stories about salmon fishing.  

Borrow a salmon resource kit

Outdoor Ideas

Innovative Idea  

Little Cub AHS hatched caterpillar larvae then watched the caterpillars experience the life cycle of turning into butterflys. To celebrate this momentous occasion the butterflys were released a special family picnic! 

  • Spend as much time as possible outdoors having the children experience the changes to the season.
  • Go to a local pond that has turtles and point out the 28 marks on the side of the shell and 13 marks on top. Have an Elder give these teachings. 
  • This is a fun time for walks, time on the land collecting and foraging, and enjoying the last of the picnic season. With all the many colours Fall will bring in mid-September, this is a terrific opportunity to reinforce and teach traditional colours.
  •  In many places, it is Apple / Pear season. Take the children to a local orchard to experience the sights, smells, and feel of orchard life. If you are in a Northern community, take the children to the farmers and local grocery markets that will have these items on display and readily available. 
  •  Rosehips an important traditional medicine and food for many Nations and will be ready to be picked. Sooner in the North and later in the South. 
  • Juniper Berries, nettle seeds, burdock, yarrow, and hawthorn berries will be ready. 
  • In the garden, this will be the last harvest of herbs such as sage, mint, oregano, and thyme. Show children how to dry these to be used later. 
  • Invite Elders and families out to see the salmon run in designated spots around communities across the province.

Circle Time Area


Have Elders /knowledge keepers / or family members bring in a turtle shell or turtle rattle to give traditional teachings on the turtle! 

September is a time many sites welcome new children in – as the five-year-olds from the previous year have left for their journey into kindergarten. Have pictures of previous grads up so children so discussions can have conversations on the journey from AHS to Kindergarten. This will prepare the children who will be moving on the following year. 

This is a perfect time for Welcome songs, name games and other fun activities that include traditional language and introduction to Elders from the community. Children take immense pride in learning how to introduce themselves in traditional language and this is also a wonderful way to have the older children role model the skills they have learned from the previous year 

Naptime may be an intimidating experience for new children attending for the first time. Traditional songs and lullabies may help with this transition. 

 AHS Centers were gifted a special CD of Cree lullabies that can be used.  A songbook was included, and these can be sung at the circle time before nap to get children ready for the quiet, restful atmosphere. 

Other Lullaby Ideas: 

Elder involvement

  • Invite Elders to be involved in daily programming, according to activities they enjoy.
  • Ask elders to share and introduce themselves and host circle time activities. This can include drumming, singing, jigging and other traditional dance, leading nature walks and on-the-land activities, and of course, playtime (indoors or outdoors). 
  • Invite Elders to help host reconciliation activities with families that include culture, language and traditional teachings.  Some examples may be orange shirt day pins, moccasin vamp beading, embroidery project, quilt squares to make a friendship quilt, storytelling, spoon and jigging event or a talking circle.

Parent Involvement

Ask families to send in a photo of a special summer memory and make a memory board for the children. 

Host a yearly orientation event such as a BBQ, feast for all the families to get to know each other and meet new members of the community.  

Include Indigenous foods to promote their importance and significance. 

Promote Orange Shirt Day/ National Day of Truth and Reconciliation activities and events, as well as resources and supports.

This is often a difficult subject for parents to explain to the 3-5 age group so gentle books on the subject can be sent home. Conversations can happen between parents/ caregivers/Elders, host agency supports and AHS staff on how to approach this difficult subject in a child-friendly matter that will not cause too much stress to the child.

Outreach /Activity kits

Hand out kits at your Back to School/ Welcoming Event. 

  • Fill with items that can be used at home to practice skills. 
  • Items can include child-size scissors, paper and cutting activities, pencils, pencil crayons, sharpener, potty training charts (if needed) stickers, glue sticks, play dough ingredients, recipe and cutters, other items that help refine fine motor skills, books about emotions, routines, seasons. 
  • Other Ideas Nimoshom’s Bus, Fall in Saikuz, PowWow Counting in Cree, The Metis Alphabet are all examples of great books to encourage learning through literacy!
  • A copy of AHS P&Gs, the daily schedule and routine, handbook, host agency programs, healthy snack ideas, food guide can also go in these kits for families.
  • Infant/ Toddler ideas: paint smock, infant/ toddler finger paints, large crayons for easy grasping, bath time play toys, large non-toxic stamp pad, finger puppets, cultural board book and puzzle. Age development songs and sensory ideas to accompany.

Lofty Ideas

Turn your loft into a grocery store, restaurant, movie theatre, hair salon, airplane or any other place of interest this month.  Use props and be creative to inspire innovative ideas in play! For those that don’t have a loft be creative use classroom items to make a creative place to play. 

Resources and related articles

Recommended books

Phylis’s Orange Shirt
Author: Phylis Webstad
Preschool introduction to the concept of residential school and why we wear orange in honour of those that attended.  

Nimoshom and His Bus
Author: Penny M. Thomas
This story is about riding the school bus with – the driver on the bus being special, as he’s a grandfather. Contains the introduction of words in Plains Cree.  

Author: Nicola M. Campbell
This story follows a child who is treasuring their last few days in their community and exploring all its rich offerings before leaving for residential school. 

With Our Orange Hearts
Author: Phylis Webstad

Founder of orange shirt day, Phylis Webstad creates a book about sharing feelings and listening to the feeling of others. Expressive book made in the spirit of reconciliation. 

Recipe of the Month

This Corn Bread Muffin recipe from our eastern cousins is the perfect item to serve with all your newly made traditional jams and jellies. It would also be great with sage maple butter. 

Indigenous Foods and Wellness Link of the Month

Coast Salish stories about the significance of cultural foods.