The Exham Years
The Church, Art and Life in Old Crow, 1965-1969
Traditionally, Gwich'in children learned from elders who shared their knowledge and values. When children accompanied their families on the seasonal round of hunting, fishing and gathering, they learned practical skills relating to the harvesting and preparation of food, making clothing and tools, and survival in their homeland. On long winter nights, elders told creation stories which imparted lessons and moral teachings about how people should live on the land, how to respect the animals that gave them food, and how they should help and support one another.
When the church missionaries came to the land of the Vuntut Gwitchin, they brought European concepts of education. As well as teachings from the Bible, they also gave lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic. The teacher was often a missionary or, after passing on knowledge to one of the congregation, a catechist might assume the role. Later, when the territorial government was established, teachers were sent from the south.
Beth-Anne was intrigued by the coaching methods of the Father Mouchet, the Catholic priest in Old Crow, who was producing Olympic calibre skiers. After he taught Beth-Anne the elements of his program, she began teaching her own students how to improve their skiing.
Today Old Crow students continue to spend time on the land with their families, learning traditional skills. Recognizing the importance of these outings, Beth-Anne asked her students to illustrate the times they spent with their family on the Old Crow Flats during “ratting” season. For another assignment, she asked students to looked beneath the headscarves of elders to determine “Whose Grandma is this?”.
Just after Beth-Anne began teaching school, the Old Crow school house burned down and had to be rebuilt. Exham Coll.
The new school. Exham Coll.
Mrs. Exham's ski team including Alice Frost (leader), Louise, Mary, Glenna, Neta, Bell and Shirley. Exham Coll.