Launa Purcell, author of Heartbeat of the Earth, A Handbook on Connecting Children to Nature through Indigenous Teachings, signs books at the Anvil Coffee Collective in Salmon Arm on Sept. 22 with Wes Snukwa7, who did the photography for the book. They are joined by Wes’ father, Joe Wilson. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

Launa Purcell, author of Heartbeat of the Earth, A Handbook on Connecting Children to Nature through Indigenous Teachings, signs books at the Anvil Coffee Collective in Salmon Arm on Sept. 22 with Wes Snukwa7, who did the photography for the book. They are joined by Wes’ father, Joe Wilson. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

Indigenous teachings: Salmon Arm resident shares how to connect kids to nature

Author and photographer hold launch for new Heartbeat of the Earth handbook

‘We see what we have been taught to see. We love and respect our natural surroundings when we see ourselves as belonging to that community.’

These sentences are among the words on the cover of Heartbeat of the Earth, A Handbook on Connecting Children to Nature through Indigenous Teachings.

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

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

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

“We spent a lot of time outside, whether gathering berries, being outside with family or being outside in nature. Definitely having grown up immersed in nature gave me a big appreciation for being mindful outdoors of the things around us.”

Purcell worked in Indigenous Education in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District 83 for more than 20 years, where outdoor learning was a key component. She now does similar work with the Rise Up Indigenous Wellness Society, with close connections to Salmon Arm and Sicamous.

The beautiful photographs of nature and children in the book were taken by Wes Snukwa7 (also goes by 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 from Wes Snukwa7, is geared toward parents, caregivers and educators. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

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

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

Contents include: the Power of Ceremony; Mindfulness – Meditation of Gratitude; We Are All Related; Swimmers, Walkers and Fliers; and Indigenous Games.

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

“When you understand another culture, you’re able to connect more strongly,” she said, explaining much of what she’s been able to share are traditional teachings, some orally from her own band and others shared from other First Nations.

The handbook is geared toward parents, caregivers and educators, although Purcell said her mother has heard from a lot of grandparents who are interested. Purcell said the handbook is the type of resource she was always looking for as a teacher of Indigenous children.

A well-attended book signing was held Sept. 22 at Anvil Coffee Collective in Salmon Arm. Both Purcell and Snukwa7 were there, as well as family, friends and supporters.

Snukwa7’s love of photography dates back to his teens when he went to an independent school run by the Lytton First Nation. Elders would come in and teach students traditional ways and language. There he took a photography class and the seed was sown.

“I believe in this book 100 per cent and it has a lot to do with the school I attended back in Lytton…,” he said.

He and his spouse 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 going on right now. To be collaborating with another First Nations person and doing a project like this – it’s just amazing… I’m just proud to be a part of the project and receive the acknowledgement that I did.”

He was particularly honoured that Janet Webster, chief of the Lytton First Nation, attended the book signing, as well as his father Joe Wilson.

“He was so proud.”

Purcell said she’s hoping to work with Snukwa7 on another project still in the making. Her family also attended the book signing and she loved seeing children there whose photographs are in the book.

“One of the little girls was signing people’s books, telling them, ‘I’m in the book, I’m famous,’” she smiled.

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

Read more: Shuswap man shocked, saddened by investigation of Lytton fire

Read more: Rise Up Indigenous Wellness Society ready to roll in the Shuswap



martha.wickett@saobserver.net
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