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Haida, teaching, Canadian history, Indigenous, adoption, Arts, Indian reservation

Flying Away
by Helga F. Lutke Medd

This is my personal story of my experiences living and teaching on the Old Massett Haida Indian Reserve in the late 1960's. I answered a short ad by the Northern Canadian Department of Indian Affairs to teach Grade One on the Queen Charlotte Islands, now called Haida Gwaii. I then wrote my dear friend simple and honest accounts about life as a Non-Indigenous Canadian teacher in an Indigenous Canadian community and they are printed in this story. I sang to the frightened Grade One children when I entered their classroom, to make our connection. I learned a different way of life that has deepened my appreciation of the Haida culture. This book is dedicated to my Haida adopted daughter, Nina Marie.

I hope this story transports you readers to another time in Canadian history to what life was like in Haida Old Massett. I trust your reading experience will be just as wonderful for you, as my 'real life' experience was for me.

“It has been a pleasure and an honor to get to know Helga Medd. I consider her a kindred spirit both as a music educator and in how Helga sees the world and all that are in it. I have been blessed with working closely with Indigenous children, youth and adults over the past 23 years. I have received many teachings and learned a great appreciation and respect for North America’s First Peoples. What stands out in my mind is how even though each First Nation has distinct and specific characteristics, they share many of the same values and teachings among many different First Nations. In turn, many of these were the same values and lessons I learned growing up in St. Brieux, a small Saskatchewan town of 400 people. I consider myself truly blessed to have started my teaching career at a school where over 96% of the students were of aboriginal ancestry. Two main things l learned while teaching teaching at Pleasant Hill Community School from 1995 to 2005 shaped me as a teacher and how I worked with children. First of all, ‘kids is kids,’ regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion, color or any other way me may try to divide ourselves. Kids are eager to learn and want to have fun doing it. They have energy to burn and will find a place to put it. It is best if we give them good places to put this energy. The second thing I learned is that when we have our students by their hearts, their minds and bodies will follow. The power of music, especially through teaching students how to make and play the indigenous North American style flute, opened the hearts of even the toughest students in a way that they would allow the healing sound of the flute to penetrate the tough shells they had built up around themselves for protection and survival. Through this experience, they were able to connect to that which was good in themselves, then in turn to that which was good around them and finally to that which connects us all. What more could you ask for?”

In Song & In Spirit,


—Richard Dubé, Owner, Northern Spirit Flutes

“I have witnessed how music has enriched the lives of young and old. We are sending our youth to a place we cannot go. They deserve the most valuable tools to live a fulfilling and productive life. The arts will inspire them to be the best they can be for their children and their communities.”

—Patricia Schultz, B Ed, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Violinist, Educator, Provincial and National Music Festival volunteer, Senior Choir Conductor. Dalmeny, Saskatchewan, Canada. Dalmeny, Saskatchewan, Canada.

“The arts are an academic subject, included in Plato’s Academia from whence we got the word. But in the sense that we are using academics now, the arts in general and music in particular are Academics Plus - like our classic core subjects, they require rigorous critical thought, disciplined and prodigious imagine, but also physical eloquence, emotional nuance and social interaction of the highest order. In short, the arts use more of us than any other subject and help lift children up to their highest promise - while having a great deal of fun along the way!”

—Doug Goodkin: Children’s Music Teacher at The San Francisco School (44 years); Author of 8 books; International Orff Schulwerk Presenter (46 countries worldwide); Director of The San Fransisco International Orff Course, the Jazz course, the SF Intern Program; Co-Director of the Orff-Afrique in Ghana; Summer Course Educator at Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, Canada; Founder and dear friend of the Central California Music Fusion (Fresno, CA. area).

"...'Gifts' or 'mikosowina' in nehiyowewin (cree) are how we describe the arts. Without the arts our education system would fail our children."

Joseph Naytowhow, 'We Are One People' Composer, Indigenous Knowledge Keeper/ Artist / Storyteller / Musician / DrumSinger, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada

"Arts in school are vital to high quality and equitable education. Without art in school, many children miss out on the important brain development that occurs when children practice arts activities. This is particularly important for children whose families have limited access to these opportunities because of limited resources."

Lilia Gonzales Chavez, M.A., Executive Director Fresno Arts Council

Helga F. Lutke Medd photo

Life in the Haida community deeply affected Helga by giving her a new way to understand children and education. With a piano concert background, Helga wanted more so she became curious trying to find a creative, fulfilling and inspiring way to learn. She found the answer in the global Orff Schulwek multi-level-sensual active-music-making process based on human development with movement, speech, singing, instrumental and any other arts strength which leads to the joy of life-long learning! Helga has used this philosophy in private piano teaching, choirs, baby and early childhood classes, senior work, therapy, drama, instrumental, English as a second language, and in all grades in school education. This keeps the child in you alive, joyful, and productive!


Helga F. Lutke Medd

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