A young Aboriginal student from Parkway Elementary School won $50 for having the best submission in a traditional knowledge and medicine-themed poster contest.
Autumn Hooleaff was declared the intermediate level winner of a province-wide contest held by the Fored BC Society. Her winning poster was called Learning Through Legends, and focused on how knowledge is passed down through the generations.
In preparation, Hooleaff approached a cousin of hers who is an elder. She initially had planned to inquire about herbs and medicine, but after hearing a compelling story, she took the concept in a new direction. He shared with her the legend of the Coyote and the Chickadee.
“The story’s about a coyote who is playing around and runs into chickadee, and chickadee challenges coyote,” explained Hooleaff’s mother Tiffani. “(The) Coyote reaction was to make fun of chickadee for being so small and worthless. But chickadee tricks the coyote and ends up winning. The moral of the story is that no matter how small you are you can do great things, and never underestimate anybody’s ability.”
Tiffani said Autumn was enthralled with this story she’d heard, and became very excited upon realizing how much wisdom can be gained through parables.
In addressing her initial inquiry, Autumn learned how members of the Penticton Indian Band would make practical uses out of local nature – “but the thing that was most exciting was this story and how you learn lessons from stories.”
Instead of formal instruction, First Nations elders don’t often teach their children about knowledge and medicine, Tiffani said. Rather they simply go about their routines and younger generations learn through observation.
“Tradition knowledge is not really taught. We just live and we learn through examples of our Elders,” her poster reads. “Our traditions are shared through stories, art, activities and everyday learning.”
To form her submission, Autumn took a photo of the story with a caption of the underlying lesson, plus a photo with her cousin – and she neatly laid it out on a poster.
While Autumn was at school, Tiffani was notified of her daughter’s win, and was expecting to break the news later in the day.
But Tiffani arrived home to find Autumn playing in the front yard, “And she came running over and said ‘Mom I won I won!’”
It turned out the school was also contacted.
Autumn found out about the contest through school’s Fored program, but the work was done extra-curricularly.
“The annual poster contest celebrates the rich cultural and heritage traditions of B.C.’s aboriginal people,” reads a Fored press release.
“She enters everything all the time, and she does pretty well,” Tiffani said. “She comes home from school with these posters and asks, ‘mom can I do this?’ And of course she can.”
Tiffani said Autumn is a very outgoing person, “and she wears her emotions on the outside, no matter what they are.”
Autumn is looking forward to a summer camp for actors she’ll be a part of, but more so she’s looking forward to summertime in Penticton.