Learning Story – Hike in to Donovan’s Camp 2

Learning Story – Hike in to Donovan’s Camp 2

The Week of April 18, 2023

What Happened?

We had a field trip to Donovan’s camp for the second week in a row. We we able to notice changes in the land since last week with less snow around and we couldn’t walk the trail over the lake from the melting. On the walk we learned about different plant medicines from our elder Lila Fraser Erasmus. We harvested a burl from a birch tree. Before taking from the tree we gave thanks to the land by offering tobacco and saying mahsi. We set a couple of snares for squirrels on our walk in. At camp we started skinning our squirrels we had enough squirrels for each Bushkid to work on their own. After watching Donovan’s demonstration we all took turns working on our own. We had small stretchers made from cardboard to stretch the skins over.

How to continue with your squirrel pelts at home. Keep on the stretchers, you can store in the freezer or in your bedroom until you want to use it. Don’t turn it inside out until it’s softened or it will crack. You need to soften it with downy fabric softener by massaging it into the hide. 

We skinned the squirrels outside in the sunshine – it was so bright out! We only had room for six people to skin at a time so when they weren’t skinning they were playing tag and snowshoeing around Donovan’s camp. We cooked muskrats over the fire in the teepee and after a long day of skinning they were eaten up quickly! 

We noticed on the walk to and from camp that there were patches of ground showing under big trees. These patches often had poop and pellets. Some Bushkids collected these to compare to other poop they found on the trail. Why does some poop come out in spheres? Why is some long and cylindrical? Did you know there is an animal that poops out cubes? (wombats) 

So many of the trees on the trail and around Donovan’s camp have old man’s beard, a form of lichen that grows on the trees. We collected some that had fallen on the ground. We talked about how we don’t have much old man’s beard at our Bushkids site.

Why is it Important?

We learned that the burls take the nutrients from the tree and the trees like when we harvest them to assist with them being able to grow more. The burl can be boiled to make a tea help with sickness and cancer symptoms. The land gives us medicines that have been used for centuries to keep peoples healthy and recovering from illness. Seeing that the land has different offerings at Donovan’s camp than at our Bushkids site shows us that we have medicines in different areas and certain medicines prefer certain conditions.

Learning that we put the snares on top of a leaning tree because the squirrels run on top of the trees/branches. We talked about how Donovan traps as a way of life and work as part of Indigenous economy – which has a deep connection to the land. When is fur best for the squirrels? Donovan taught us that in the winter when they need thick fur to stay warm it’s the best time to harvest their fur. This lead to a conversation about what squirrels eat? Are they fatty? Do they just use fur to stay warm?

What Does This Mean For Next Time?

We will cook the squirrels that we skinned this week. We can complete the cycle of using the whole animal and trying a new type of meat for some Bushkids. They are welcome to bring their pelts to Bushkids if they want some help or to show us what they’ve done over the week with them.

This will be our final session of the season. They wanted to plan a feast. Noni will be bringing a caribou leg with the fur on – he will be skinning it and breaking down the meat for us to share for some snacks. If you would like to bring food to share that is definitely okay! There were some Bushkids that were very keen on bringing food for the feast but it isn’t necessary for you to do that.

We hope it will be a nice warm day with some melting snow so the Bushkids can enjoy water play with shovels. They want to make rivers and move water from one area of camp to another – it’s so fun! Please send them with a shovel if they want to play with the melting snow.