Instructors and students at the Athabasca Delta Community School (ADCS) in Fort Chipewyan recently said goodbye to one of the key contributors to its burgeoning cultural studies curriculum.
Elder Louis Ladouceur, who passed away earlier this month from a brief battle with cancer, was instrumental in bringing traditional knowledge into the school and the students out onto the land, according to ADCS principal Michael Flieger.
“Louis was very passionate about teaching students about local culture and cultural land use. He made himself available to us, whenever we asked, whether it was to show the children how to clean a fish, or just to have a conversation, or tell students his tales of trapping and living off the land,” Flieger said.
Ladouceur worked with the staff and students of ADCS over the past year as the school developed its new approach to experiential and cultural learning, working closely with the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative (OSLI) and the Experiential Learning Working Group to instruct teachers on incorporating traditional knowledge into the classroom.
“Through my participation with OSLI, I had the ability to travel with Louis to meetings and other training, and I can say that wherever we traveled, Louis was regarded as a wise man, one with great integrity and passion,” Flieger said. “Most recently, Louis and I traveled with a group to the Yukon where Louis was celebrated for his bannock making skills.”
Flieger said Ladouceur had a “natural ability” to work with others and, though he was not a teacher by training, was gifted nonetheless.
Sharon Shadow, the First Nations cultural inclusion consultant with the Yukon department of Education, expressed her appreciation of Ladouceur upon hearing of his passing.
“It was such a pleasure to meet Louis. I remember his story of falling through the ice and his will to survive to return to his family,” Shadow wrote in an email. “It is Thanksgiving and this was the time the Creator chose for him, so we do give thanks for his life and for his teachings and friendship. Although they were here for a short time, it felt like they were always a part of our being.”
The students and staff at ADCS plan to preserve Ladouceur’s memory in a space being developed at the school, where elders from the community will be honoured through photographs and words of wisdom.