Elders of the Future exhibits First Nations oral child rearing traditions


Knowledge can be passed down through the generations in more way than just books.

 The Blackfoot First Nations have a long tradition of  teaching through storytelling, so a massive exhibit at Casa called “Elders of the Future: Created and Curated by a multi-generational and multi-cultural team” features works by numerous artists inspired by the oral tradition of storytelling.Edna Bad Eagle, Kristine Alexander Jan Newberry and TanyaPace-Crosschild present Elders of the Future at casa. Photo by Richard Amery

 It is just a few of the works  of  the exhibit which can be accessed through a new app presented by the Opokaa’sin Early Intervention Society which is available as a QR code at the exhibit at Casa.
 The exhibit and app is the culmination of a 10 year collaboration of  the “Raising Spirit” project between the Opokaa’sin Early Intervention Society, University of Lethbridge and University of Lethbridge’s Institute for Child and Youth Services.

“There weren’t any books on child rearing like “What To Do When your Child Turns 6,” so there had to be a different way to convey information,” observed U of L anthropology associate professor Jan Newberry.

“It was interrupted by residential schools and the ’Sixties scoop’ (the practice of taking the children of First Nations people and placing them in Foster homes or up for adoption,” added Tanya Pase-Crosschild Opokaa’sin Early Intervention Society president, adding  First Nations families often have a bad reputation in the media
 So the exhibit included innocuous  photos of happy children living and playing with their families.
“ We need to start showcasing these stories,” Pase-Crosschild added.

“We need to know these things and  build a better view of a families and give hope,” she said, noting  children need to be educated about their culture.
“Including things like how to approach an elder and ask questions,” she said.


 Some of the exhibits include statements on brown paper of how some of the kids have responded to the project and what they have learned from it.
 The project features 8,000 images created from people all over southern Alberta, only a sample are part of the exhibit.

“ But everyone has a phone, so they can just go to the app and watch a story,” Newberry said, indicating a youtube video of one of the stories. Part of the exhibit was funded by a Canada 150 grant.

Elders of the Future showcases the work of Blackfoot youth and adults who have and continue to participate in an ongoing community-driven research project. The youth researched local Blackfoot values surrounding family and child rearing and are now articulating these values and how they reflect healthy, resilient families. This project has made connections within communities across southern Alberta, including Lethbridge, Kainai (Blood Reserve) and Piikani (Peigan Reserve).

“It’s really important and a really positive and beautiful thing,” said Edna Bad Eagle, program director of the exhibit which features some of her photos.
 Elders of the Futures runs at Casa, Sept. 9-Oct. 21. the opening reception os 7-9 p.m., Sept. 9.

— by Richard Amery, L.a. Beat Editor