Author: Colin Pangman
The Kitigay Project so far is an experience unlike any that I have experienced before. For the past 10 years, I have been living a sedentary life that was lacking in outdoor activities. According to the World Health Organization, approximately two million deaths every year are attributed to physical inactivity (WHO,2002, p.1). I knew I needed a change but it seems fate had plans for me already. I was approached by my local resource center and recommended to join a course about food sustainability. This was the first I had heard of the Kitigay program, which means to plant, but my family had always farmed. My uncle and cousins are farmers and I would help them on his farm when I was younger. So I thought this would be an interesting and new type of opportunity to try out.
First Experience: Connecting back to the land and outdoors
Our first experience as a group was touring a farm in the countryside owned by Professor Martin Entz. Arriving at the farm it was a cold and sunny morning with the smell of fresh rain from the night before, at first glance I could not help but notice the love and the work put into his land and was immediately drawn to it and wanted to learn more about it. Martin showed us his garden where he grew numerous crops like lettuce, cabbage, carrots, and various berries and fruit in an orchid style setting. His pedagogical approach to teaching us about his farm was unique because he allowed us to taste just about fruit or vegetable that he showcased. I tasted numerous crops but the one that stood out to me the most was the chokecherries because they were bitter with just a hint of sweetness. Next, he took us onto his cropland next to the farm where he grew various crops like corn, sunflower, and companion crops. What stood out to me the most about this was him allowing our group to ride in the back of his trailer pulled by his tractor although not a fast ride it allowed me to realize the beauty of the outdoors and all that it has to offer.
Overall, this experience on the Martin Entz farm was fantastic and an amazing opportunity for an outdoor educational experience that I will not forget anytime soon.
Second Experience: Learning about the land through Ojibway teachings
The next experience was taking a hike through the Brokenhead Wetlands trail, the trail is rich in vegetation and rare plants that are only found in swamp or marsh type land. Early in the afternoon, the weather was hot and humid as there was a heatwave coming through the province at the time.
I personally never been to the trail myself so experiencing it for the first time was exciting and educational, entering the trail you are surrounded by forest and shade, walking along the trail I felt strangely at peace the further into nature I walked, all throughout the trail you will find plaques with various Ojibway teachings about the land, the different types of plants and vegetation and history of some of the landmarks there are. At the end of the trail, you come to a circle resting area where you can sit and take in nature for all it has to offer, which to me is becoming more and more of an important feeling to me the more I experience it.
Third Experience: Fort Whyte Farms
My next experience was in October, we decided to tour another farm but this time the farm was in the City of Winnipeg. Fort Whyte farm was similar in some ways to the tour on the Martin Entz farm but the experience was more urban in nature as opposed to the experience that we had in the countryside on the Entz farm. Arriving on the farm it was a cold and windy day, we were met by the staff where we had our usual introductions then had a chat about the farm and the history of it as well as the various crops and animals that it housed. The crops they grew were beautiful and plentiful and were the perfect example of what can expect to grow when we start our farming plots. They also had a traditional medicine garden which was one of our main inspirations for wanting to create a medicine garden of our own that contained all the sacred medicines. Our tour of the farm lasted about 2 hours and we saw other things such as the animals they house such as chickens, pigs, and buffalos but what stood out to me was the beehives they housed because our group wants to start an enterprise with honey and seeing beehives in person really gave us the perfect of example of what to expect when we get our own hives.
Kitigay: My Experience of a great pedagogical experience for Youth
The Kitigay project for me has been such an amazing learning experience for me, we as a group started out with the goal of mainly trying to figure out a sustainable way to provide food for our reserve community, but with the experiences above and talking with various other professors and farmers as well, we realize we can be so much more than just that.
Coming from a sedentary lifestyle myself, I now see the importance of providing a place for learning and teaching through land-based activities. Although our goal with this project is still to provide a source of food sustainability, we now have another goal that we ultimately want to achieve. Over the past few months, we have been working tirelessly out in the fields on our reserve to clear and prepare land for a farm and homestead, this is what we want to be the start of our area for an outdoor learning center. Our first-day clearing was warm and humid but bearable, plans were going well with the burning of the overgrowth of weeds, but it got slightly out of control and the local fire department needed to be called, in the end, it all worked out. Now with everything cleared, with some help from the agriculture department from the university we had a quarter of an acre tilled for crops. So far, we only have garlic planted in the land, but our work allowed for the land to be ready for the spring when we decide to start building our homestead and learning center.
With the help of the architecture students, we plan on building not just a farm but a farming experience for school-age students on my reserve and as well as any youth from outside of our community who wish to be more connected with the land and the history of it. Teachings would include learning about the different types of animals we have on the farm, the different sacred medicines and stories shared in the Ojibway traditions, as well as providing a place where elders can come together and teach the youth on with various land-based activities like medicine picking and tipi building.
In conclusion, my work with this group these past few months has been interesting, to say the least. And coming from a lifestyle ruled mainly with technology my eyes have been opened to the experiences and the teachings that the outdoors have to offer. From the amazing experiences from the tour on the Martin Entz farm as well as the land-based hike in the Brokenhead Wetlands and the amazing insight that we got from the Fort Whyte Farms, I just hope that my work with the Kitigay project can provide just as rich of an outdoor experience as these places did to me, Whether or not it will succeed is a different story but for right now I am fairly confident that our work is far from finished and we will succeed in providing our community with the much-needed variety it needs for the school-age children in terms of outdoor recreational and educational programs.