Rooted in Ancient Traditions and Complimented by Modern Research: Films for First Nation parents developed in Port Alberni

Memphis Dick, featured in the film, with her grandmother Lena Ross

The parenting traditions and wisdom of the Nuu Chah Nulth peoples have been practiced and passed down from time immemorial, from “?iikmuut”. These practices nurtured respectful, capable, responsible and compassionate young people. Colonization and the establishment of residential schools was a horrendous disruption to family life and traditional practices. Today First Nations families are committed to overcoming those harms, and striving towards healing and reawakening their traditions.

A group of First Nation parents and professionals living in the Port Alberni area became aware of the lack of resources for First Nation families who were interested in strengthening, relearning and developing positive parenting skills consistent with their cultural beliefs and values. Producers Kerry Robertson (retired SD 70 teacher) and Juliana McCaig (retired parent educator) had the privilege of working with the group to create the resources they believed First Nation families would want and appreciate. The result is a series of three DVDs, the most recent one aimed at parents of children 11 to 14 years old.

From the DVD, “Parenting Path: Parenting Your Young Teen” Doug Sam, Tseshaht Nation, and his daughter Harlee

From the DVD, “Parenting Path: Parenting Your Young Teen”
Doug Sam, Tseshaht Nation, and his daughter Harlee

“The Parenting Path: Parenting Your Young Teen” is a unique and encouraging resource for parents who are or who will soon be raising young teens. It presents modern families – parents, grandparents, and teens – who talk about the traditional ways of the Nuu Chah Nulth First Nations and how those traditions are shaping their parenting today. The film is true to life; it presents the real challenges of parenting in today’s world, but it is also filled with hope, humour and the joy of teenagers. Current research affirming that the traditional practices remain optimal for the healthy development of young people today is also presented.

A key theme of the film is how First Nation families help their children develop a strong sense of belonging, connection and the deep knowledge that they are loved and valued.  Also teachings about “?iisaak” – “respect” for family, for others and for the natural world – are presented throughout the film.

The film also addresses some of the fears and anxieties many First Nation parents have about going into a school to talk with teachers or administrators about their children’s progress or challenges. In a straight-forward manner it acknowledges the past harmful effects of residential schools and the racism parents may have experienced as children. The film gives good examples of how parents can get the support they want so they can advocate for their children.

Other topics presented include setting limits for teens, teaching teens problem solving for everyday needs, and the necessity for parents to take care of themselves so they are better able to take care of their children.

Irene Robinson, Cultural Historian, Tseshaht Nation

Irene Robinson, Cultural Historian, Tseshaht Nation

The narrators of the film are Irene Robinson, Cultural Historian, Family Support Worker, mother and grandmother, and Dennis Bill, Educator in School District 70 and father. Both Irene and Dennis are members of the Tseshaht First Nation.

See Irene and Dennis talk about the film: https://vimeo.com/160425895

“The Parenting Path: Parenting Your Young Teen” is not only a valuable resource for First Nation families, its core messages are applicable to all parents of teens. The film would also be appropriate for PACs, teacher Professional Development, School Trustees, and community groups for its rich presentation of traditional First Nations beliefs and practices.  Although it presents traditions and teachings specific to the Nuu Chah Nulth people, the film has received considerable feedback confirming that the core values resonate with other First Nation peoples across BC and Canada.


Contact  juliana.mccaig@gmail.com for more information about “Parenting Your Young Teen.”  Parenting Path Group Productions offers two previous films, one for First Nation parents of young children and a documentary about First Nation teens who are pregnant or parenting. Parenting Path Group Productions is a non-profit collaborative. The DVDs cost $10.00 each.

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