Grades 3-5 Lesson 2: Ceremonial Uses for Water

Ceremonial Uses for Water

Fire and Wood

“All people need to come together to make a shift in the way we are living with and treating water. Ceremonies and prayer can make great change.” - Jean Aquash O’Chiese, Ojibway Elder

Background information

The relationship between water and health is direct and foundational; as the Grandmothers pointed out, all life is dependent on water. They spoke about how water is critical for maintaining life within the physical realm, commenting that the human body is mostly comprised of water and that without the hydration that water provides we perish. In First Nation culture, there are many reasons for which they appreciate it as a life force and believe it has a spirit. Water in Aboriginal traditions has cleansing and purifying powers. It is the giver of life with which babies are born. Water has tremendous significance before birth, during the birthing process, and after birth. Recognizing the vital importance of water to survival is the beginning of a healthy perspective. Water is the blood of Mother Earth. Similar to blood, which circulates throughout our bodies, nutrients flow into the land via water. Without our blood serving its proper functions, we would die. (McGregor, 2013)

Fasting is a means of testing, practicing and deepening our personal commitment to our values and intentions. It calls upon us to make a small sacrifice of food and water and challenges us to move from intentions to action, from beliefs to experience. Fasting is a key process to demonstrate a personal commitment to honouring and protecting the women and children in our lives. It is also a way to support each other in our collective responsibility as men to ensure all women and children are free from violence in our homes, communities, and our nations.

Lesson 2: First Nation Use of Water in Ceremonies

Grades: 3-5

Subjects: Social Studies, English Language Arts, Visual Arts

Topic: Ceremonial use of water in First Nation ceremonies

Time: 60–70 Minutes

Space requirement: Classroom

Materials: Elder, Smartboard, Copies of  the Quick Write/Quick Draw assignment page

For the Elder, have their discussion directed or geared towards the effects that water has on ceremonies when the water is dirty. Again, the Elder will not get into specifics about what happens within the ceremony. Have them discuss issues that arise when they know their water is polluted.

Can it be used in ceremonies?
Does it affect the medicines that are used in ceremony?
If there was no water, could ceremony exist?

***Keep in mind the protocol for approaching the Elder. Offer tobacco and a honourarium for their time to come in and speak. Let them know what you want them to speak about prior to having them come into the classroom (one day or so). Let him or her know that for younger grades they may require less time as their attention span is not as high as grade 4 and 5 (teacher can gauge/decide this).

Objectives: To gain insight and understand how water pollution affects uses for First Nation People.

Keywords: Ceremony, pollution, groundwater, Elder


Hook: For the hook, display a picture of devastated land or of an Elder looking at the water on a Smartboard/screen. Have students make inferences about what they see. Record their answers on chart paper. These answers will be looked at later in the lesson.

Questions to consider:
What do you see when you look at this picture?
What do you think will be affected when we pollute the water/groundwater?
Do you think rocks are affected?
How does dirty water make you feel?
If you could not drink the water, how would that make you feel?
Is it wrong for people/industries to pollute the water?

Step 1: Before - Prior to the Elder speaking, give guidelines/expectations to students about respecting the speaker and sitting and listening.

Gather students around in a circle and have the Elder sit on a chair. Introduce that this is a sharing circle (the teacher can ask the Elder to touch on this if they need to). Keep an eye on the time, as you want to engage students after this because their thoughts and comprehension will be at their fullest.

Step 2: During - After the Elder has spoken, students can have a Q&A with the Elder to follow up with their inquiry on the subject. At this point, it is okay for the students to ask questions to the Elder but they should be guided by the teacher to stay on topic.

Step 3: After - “Quick draw, Quick write” is a compose and create exercise. This is a writing/comprehension exercise that will motivate students to visualize what they have learned. This will also be used as an assessment. A graphic organizer is provided below.

The students will draw and then write about what they learned from the Elder.

Teacher: Suggestions are provided above along with background information. Also provided is a video recorded from a Plains Cree and Plains Ojibwa perspective.

Assessment: The “Quick draw, Quick Write” can be used as the assessment for the lesson.

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Native Counselling Services of Alberta(NCSA). (2018). Water: the sacred relationship. Retrieved from