Developed as a pilot program in 2009, and delivered through the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada , the Roots & Shoots for Aboriginal Youth initiative is a program that engages youth in learning, participation, and leadership in sustainable development.
The Roots & Shoots Program is a globally recognized program, with the main purpose of implementing positive change in the environment, protecting and caring for animals, and helping youth develop self-respect and confidence in themselves. These goals are achieved because the program is based on a cyclic structure of knowledge, compassion and action.
AANDC has provided funding of over $155,000 for this special program. It is geared to helping Aboriginal youth make more connections to their land, people and cultural identity, and be empowered to create change in their communities.
As such, Roots & Shoots for Aboriginal Youth offers financial contribution by means of small grants of up to $2,000 for projects developed by First Nations, Inuit and Métis schools, cultural centres and communities that are members of the Roots & Shoots Aboriginal Youth Program. These grants are provided to groups who demonstrate an existing commitment to Roots & Shoots for Aboriginal Youth and express a clear plan for executing community action projects.
Jennifer Petahtegoose, a teacher at St. Charles College in Sudbury, has received funding from Roots & Shoots for Aboriginal Youth since its beginning and has made the initiative a pivotal part of her curriculum. Each semester, she and her students undertake a different project through the initiative.
The initiative strives to educate Aboriginal youth about Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) by connecting them to their Elders and local environment. TEK plays an important role in ensuring that Aboriginal peoples will be able to meet their economic, residential, social and cultural needs from the land while preserving the environment at the same time. Today, it is central to the development of management plans that guide Aboriginal peoples toward sustainable use of their lands to benefit their communities.
One of these learning projects was “Project Kinade”, meaning “Everything that you see around you is from the heart of the Creator.” Project Kinade provided an opportunity for students to connect with their Elders and learn about sustainable land use principles. The students planted sage, strawberries and trees. They also removed garlic mustard seed, an invasive plant in the area. Finally, they participated in a drumming circle led by an Elder. The project allowed them to learn about their First Nation’s culture and give back to the environment.
“Roots & Shoots has been a wonderful learning opportunity for my students”, says Petahtegoose. “It totally complements the learning we strive for in Native Studies and really does help the kids learn about responsible stewardship of our land, taking pride in our Anishnabe culture and traditional ways of life, and helping them to see how they are connected to everything around them. It's been a great way for my students to connect to our global community and helps our young people see how they can truly make a difference."
Although Roots & Shoots for Aboriginal Youth is a youth-based program, anyone who is interested in taking action to make the world a better place can get involved. People around the world have been sharing knowledge and starting their own groups, contributing to a global sustainable community.