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Salmon Arm resident shares how to connect kids to nature – Salmon Arm Observer

“We see what we were taught to see. We love and respect our natural environment as we see ourselves as part of this community.”

These phrases match the words on the cover of Heartbeat of the Earth, A Handbook on Connecting Children to Nature through Indigenous Teachings.

The handbook was written by Launa Purcell, a member of the Xa’xtsa First Nation in the Mount Currie area who lives in Salmon Arm. She understands the importance of learning outdoors on a deep level.

“As an indigenous Xa’xtsa woman, I understand that the teachings of our ancestors and outdoor life are as inseparable as our connection to the land… We see ourselves as part of nature and not as a separate entity. Children learn from an early age that we do to ourselves what we do to nature…” she writes in the introduction.

She spent many hours with her grandmother, Alice Purcell, who died six years ago in her late 90s.

“We spent a lot of time outside, whether it was picking berries, being outside with the family, or being in nature. Growing up surrounded by nature has definitely given me a great appreciation for being mindful of things around us when we are outdoors.”

Purcell worked in Indigenous education at North Okanagan-Shuswap School District 83 for more than 20 years, where outdoor learning was a key component. She now works similarly with the Rise Up Indigenous Wellness Society, with close ties to Salmon Arm and Sicamous.

The beautiful nature and children’s photos in the book were taken by Wes Snukwa7 (also of Wilson), a member of the Lytton First Nation who lives in Salmon.

Heartbeat of the Earth, A Handbook on Connecting Children to Nature through Indigenous Teachings, written by Launa Purcell with photographs by Wes Snukwa7, is intended for parents, caregivers, and educators.  (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

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Heartbeat of the Earth, A Handbook on Connecting Children to Nature through Indigenous Teachings, written by Launa Purcell with photographs by Wes Snukwa7, is intended for parents, caregivers, and educators. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

With its short, well-placed texts, accompanied by photos and drawings, the manual is accessible and inviting.

Content includes: the power of ceremony; mindfulness – meditation of gratitude; We are all related; swimmers, hikers and aviators; and indigenous games.

When asked about the generosity of sharing Indigenous knowledge with the larger population, Purcell said her hope is to increase understanding.

“When you understand another culture, you can connect more,” she said, explaining that much of what she was able to share was traditional teachings, some orally from her own band and others from other First Nations.

The handbook is aimed at parents, carers and educators, although Purcell said her mother has heard from many grandparents who are interested. Purcell said the handbook is the kind of resource she’s always looked for as a teacher of Indigenous children.

A well-attended book signing took place on September 22nd at the Anvil Coffee Collective in Salmon Arm. Both Purcell and Snukwa7 were there, as were family, friends and supporters.

Snukwa7’s love of photography dates back to his youth when he attended a Lytton First Nation independent school. Elders came in and taught the students traditional ways and language. There he took part in a photography course and the seed was sown.

“I believe in this book 100 percent and it has a lot to do with the school I went to in Lytton…” he said.

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He and his wife Kristine Wilson also do family portraits, events, weddings and more which he loves.

His and Kristine’s friendship with Purcell goes back a long way as she taught their three children as well as his sister.

“I love the path she’s taking right now. To work with another First Nations person and do a project like this – it’s just incredible… I’m just proud to be part of the project and to have the validation that I did it.”

He was particularly honored that Lytton First Nation Chief Janet Webster and his father, Joe Wilson, attended the book signing.

“He was so proud.”

Purcell said she hopes to work with Snukwa7 on another project that is still in the making. Her family also attended the book signing and she loved seeing the children there whose photos are featured in the book.

“One of the little girls would autograph people’s books and tell them, ‘I’m in the book, I’m famous,'” she smiled.

Heartbeat of the Earth is available at the Salmon Arm in Bookingham Palace and the Book Nook.


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