Elder Wilson concludes lessons with EIPS

Elder Wilson Bearhead performs the naming ceremony for the Mills Haven Elementary Spirit Bear. Travis Dosser/News Staff/File

Share Adjust Comment Print

A kind, familiar face will be missing from the hallways of Elk Island Public Schools next school year, as well as his Indigenous knowledge, history and culture.

Elder Wilson Bearhead, a Nakota Sioux and an elder who has helped guide EIPS schools for the past four years, gave his intention to leave earlier in the year as he has launched a children’s book series. The Shia Tooskin book series, which is about a Nakota boy learning from his elders and experiencing many things, was supposed to launch in Winnipeg on May 1. After the pandemic, he plans to do a book tour in schools nation-wide, including in Alberta.

Bearhead said he will miss working with EIPS but is excited to move on to the next step in his life.

“It was a wonderful experience. It will always be in my heart and my mind and connect with my spirit,” he said. “I’m going to miss it and I think they’ll miss it too because our relationship was very special between the students, teachers and everyone.”

The move was a tough decision for Bearhead, who said he loved working with the kids for EIPS.

“Storytelling to the kids (was my favourite thing to do) because Indigenous stories are really amazing because you can take the kids on a journey,” he said. “I was 15 minutes into a story and everybody was listening and this little boy walked in and I didn’t want him to miss out so I asked the kids what have we learned with our eyes and our ears, can I get a volunteer to come up and explain. This young girl jumped up and didn’t miss a beat and explained word for word what I had told them 15 minutes prior.”

Elder Wilson Bearhead provided Indigenous lessons to Elk Island Public Schools for the past four years. Photo courtesy EIPS

Bearhead has been a mainstay at various school events with students including teaching them the Seven Grandfather Teachings, holding Spirit Bear naming ceremonies and other activities that taught students about Canada’s first people.

“I’ve gone to classrooms and talked about the importance of learning and the Creator gave us gifts to learn and for the young ones it is always the eyes and the ears that are very important tools to use during their learning period and I talk with them about things like that,” Bearhead said.

He’ll hold onto fond memories of sharing music when he would drum for students and they’d sing along.

“They really appreciated whatever knowledge is coming and I also encouraged them that knowledge is a good tool because it makes every one of us humble. The more we learn the more we understand, the more we appreciate,” he said.

Even though he is leaving, EIPS is in good hands, according to Bearhead.

“They brought this amazing young fella (Jeremy Albert) in who has done some amazing work as well with Edmonton Public,” he said. “We are grateful this young fella is coming to be part of the Elk Island family because he brings a lot of knowledge and experience. I think he will be very beneficial as he puts on his moccasins and goes forward.”

Albert is of Cree, French, Irish ancestry, is a proud member of the Sweetgrass First Nation located in Treaty 6 Territory. Studying the Cree language has played a major role in his own process of reconciliation and decolonization. With Edmonton Public School Division 11 students, as well as adults, Albert has facilitated numerous blanket exercises, which helps increase empathy and provides an understanding of the shared history between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.

EIPS students might have another chance to visit with Bearhead as his book tour will make a stop in Strathcona County at a future date. You can find more information about Bearhead’s books by visiting the Elder Wilson Facebook page.

tdosser@postmedia.com

twitter.com/travisdosser

Comments