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What do the beaver teaching and space have in common? A Canadian astronaut

When Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen heads to the moon, he will take the teachings of an an Anishinaabe tale with him.

Hansen will be the first Canadian to orbit the moon with the launch of the Artemis II mission, expected in September 2025.

He shared the story he learned from a Sagkeeng First Nation knowledge keeper with students in 14 schools in remote areas of Canada on Tuesday.

“The teaching of the beaver is the teaching of you and I,” Hansen said to the students.

“We all have a gift and we are meant to share our gifts.”

His gift, he said, is to work with others on tough challenges. 

As someone who didn’t grew up around First Nations, Métis or Inuit culture, he said he looked to people he met to help prepare for his journey. 

That led him to do a vision quest with David Courchene III, the leader of Turtle Lodge International Centre for Indigenous Education and Wellness in Manitoba.

“We came up with ‘Well, let’s take him out on the land to prepare himself mentally,'” said Courchene.

Hansen spent four days alone in nature at a sacred site called Manitou Api. 

Turtle Lodge leader David Courchene III says he took Hansen to do a vision quest at a sacred site in Manitoba to help prepare him for his journey. (Submitted by David Courchene III)

“We taught him the purpose and the meaning of why we do those things to connect with the land, connect with the spirit. A lot of teaching that our people carry,” said Courchene.

Courchene told CBC Indigenous that he could see that Hansen understood the significance of the teachings he shared with him.

“There are people out there that do recognize the importance that we have to offer as an Indigenous people.,” said Courchene.

While telling the students of his experience with Anishinaabe culture from Courchene, Hansen acknowledged that the students’ cultures may not be the same but he still wanted to share that message that resonated so much with him.

“Every single person across the country has the potential to deliver value and bring their gifts to the world,” said Hansen.

“Canada’s future is dependent on all of us working together.”

Frank McMullin, vice-principal at Paatsaali School in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, said the message also resonated with students there.

“Now they’re thinking about things that kind of grab their interest and how they can pursue goals and do something amazing like Jeremy,” he said.

The only sad part was that each school was only allowed to ask one question because of how fast the hour went by. 

“One of them wanted to ask, ‘Can you use your cell phone in space?’ ‘Course kids, that’s the first thing they think of.” said McMullin.

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