CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 20 . . . . May 30, 2008
The community of Old Crow is situated 500 miles north of Whitehorse and lies just within the Arctic Circle. While the only access is by plane, this seemingly remote community of 280 people has high speed Internet, the children watch any number of television shows via satellite and play the same video games as children anywhere else in Canada. Technology has been fully embraced and herein lies the problem. As one speaker states, "We got caught up in that."
The children are not active and are losing their connection to the traditional ways. When television came to the community in the 1970's, the children stopped being active. Diabetes levels have risen, and, while the children today may have more knowledge than their counterparts in years past, their bodies are not any better for it. This is a concern for people like Glenna Tetlichi who remembers her own childhood with fondness. Her mission is to replicate the activities that kept her and her peers on a healthy path. She knows that this will be a challenge.
In 1946, Father Jean Marie Mouchet came to the Yukon from France. A former resistance fighter during the war, Fr. Mouchet embraced the North and saw even then that troubles were emerging with the youth. Their parents were sustained by the land. The community was isolated but self-sufficient. However, this society was disappearing. To counter this, he instituted a programme of strict discipline for the children, merging athletics with culture. As a result, the community produced a number of champion athletes and leaders. Glenna Tetlichi was one of those children, now with children of her own.
Glenna invited Fr. Mouchet back to the community to reprise his programme with the children of the community. At 85, Fr. Mouchet seems to have lost no vitality and accepts the invitation. The plan is to take children between the ages of seven and nine and teach them traditional ways while building up their physical strength. In the past, the people of Old Crow had to be in top physical condition just to survive. Now with snow machines, ATVs and boats, life is much easier, but "no one comes out on the land." In the past, the caribou hunt was a time for the community to gather and everyone, even the small children, had roles to play. An elder states, "Kids need endurance. They must exert themselves." After this statement, one child is shown struggling to do one sit-up. Fr. Mouchet states that "competition now only breeds anger." The aim of the programme is to "build the kids up spiritually, mentally and emotionally." While the programme encourages competition, the children are competing against themselves. Their progress is recorded so they can see their improvement. This improvement is shown throughout the film.
The plan was to have this programme adopted by the school system, but the film shows that this is no easy task, and Glenna hits many roadblocks, even though the children are making progress. There is also a lack of parental support which frustrates those who are trying to make this a success.
Fr. Mouchet leaves Glenna in charge. When he ran his original programme, his belief was that "kids must be educated to take over when they are ready." He feels Glenna is ready, and he is correct. There is some success by the film's end, but the programme is still young. Hopefully, there will be a follow-up.
The Challenge in Old Crow is a wonderful film. Throughout the discussion about the current programme, there are many scenes of the traditional ways as Fr. Mouchet was an amateur filmmaker. Old Crow has great potential, and with leaders like Glenna and others, there is hope. The message of the need for physical activity hits home for all children in Canada. The film would be useful in Canadian Geography, Native Studies, Family Studies, Sociology, and Physical Education.
Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.