Humans of Blue Dot: Shaune and Isaac

(Photo: Meaghan Kent Photography)

Shaune Rice is using teachings from his Indigenous background to educate the next generation on environmental rights.

With my son, Isaac, being born, as he was growing up, I began to remember the precious times with my family in the bush. Both my grandfathers were anglers and hunters. My mother’s father was considered a “coureur des bois”, a knower of the bush. It’s what the French settlers called the people who knew how to live on the land. And my dad’s side, our Mohawk blood line, with Isaac and my nephew growing up, I hope my grandfathers live on within them.

I started my teaching career in 1996. I taught in B.C. for seven years and Manitoba for eight, all on reserve. I focused on connecting the children to their environment because I saw what happened when Indigenous youth were disconnected from their land. I called it land detachment, and wrote my master’s thesis on it. It disconnects the youth from who they are and from their ancestors. And it’s not just Indigenous kids up north, it’s every human. If we disconnect ourselves from the environment there’s a piece missing; we’re not whole. I believe this feeling of alienation contributes to the high suicide rates among Indigenous children. Of all the students I met, the ones who were connected to their environment thrived. The ones who weren’t had trouble; depression, isolation and a sense of worthlessness.

Being a teacher, I always say, whatever dilemmas we face, it lands on the teachers’ shoulders because we’re teaching our future generations. We’re teaching them to nurture the land; we’re provoking creativity in their minds. We need to educate the next generation to respect the land, to connect to it and to become problem-solvers.

In Indigenous philosophy we think seven generations behind and seven generations ahead. Ontario needs stronger environmental laws to protect the next seven generations.

Blue Dot relies on the efforts of dedicated citizens taking action in their local communities. Humans of Blue Dot is an attempt to capture the unique stories of some inspiring volunteers who have generously given their time to advancing the environmental rights movement in Canada.