Building a Sun Effigy

Building an Earth-Sun effigy.
The first workshop was: Building an “Earth – Sun” effigy with First Nations (Cree) elder, Joseph Naytowhow. Prior to the activity, the children who were to be involved generated their lists of words that they associated with the sun. Joseph translated the words into Cree, and the words were written onto cards. Each child would thus be able to take home a new Cree word, one that they had chosen that related to their environments. As well, prior to the activity, we ordered soil, sculpted the soil into a sun shape (circle – with four rays, each pointing in a different cardinal direction) to prepare for the workshop. We left some soil at the side for the children to move to the sun shape. Kelly Fineday’s Grade 3 class from Sutherland School and children from the University of Saskatchewan Campus Day care participated in the activity. The activity began with Joseph telling the children a story and then teaching them a Cree song. They all sang the different verses / choruses of the song together. Then, they talked about the sun, and each child was given his/her card with his/her sun word(s) on it. Lastly, Joseph smudged the sun, and the children brought more soil, smudged the rocks they had brought and placed the rocks onto the sun. We now have a beautiful sun in the garden – there rain or shine!

The tradition of building these shapes is not necessarily a Cree tradition. Joseph is an artist and draws his art from teaching and learnings wherever he is. He has traveled extensively and spends time with various different Indigenous groups. The sun is the third “Earth” feature he has created in the garden. The first was the Earth Turtle (from Anishinabe traditions) and the second was the Earth bison, from Plains culture traditions.

About Janet McVittie

Faculty, Department of Educational Foundations College of Education, University of Saskatchewan Research interests: social and ecological justice, experiential and inquiry learning, assessment for learning.
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