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

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When Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen travels to the Moon, he will take with him the lessons of an Anishinaabe tale.

Hansen will be the first Canadian to orbit the Moon with the launch of the Artemis II mission, scheduled for September 2025.

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

“Teaching Beaver is teaching you and me,” Hansen told the students.

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

His gift, he says, is working with others on difficult challenges.

Not having grown up in First Nations, Métis or Inuit culture, he said he looked to the people he met to help him prepare for his trip.

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

“We thought, ‘Well, let’s get him out on the field so he can get mentally prepared,’” Courchene said.

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

    Turtle Lodge leader David Courchene III took the astronaut on a vision quest to a sacred site in Manitoba called
Turtle Lodge leader David Courchene III says he took Hansen on a vision quest to a sacred site in Manitoba to help him prepare for his trip. (Submitted by David Courchene III)

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

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

“There are people who recognize the importance that we have to offer as indigenous people,” Courchene said.

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

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

“Canada’s future depends on us working together.”

Frank McMullin, vice-principal of Paatsaali School in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, said the message resonated with students there as well.

“Now they are thinking about things that spark their interest and how they can pursue their goals and do something amazing like Jeremy,” he said.

The only sad part was that each school was only allowed to ask one question due to how quickly the hour passed.

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

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