Mawkinumasultinej: Let’s Learn Together! Kataq (eels)

Inquiring Into Eels

On this page you will find resources and curriculum connections to help you lead students through an inquiry unit on eels and the significance of eels in the lives of Mi’kmaw people. This project was inspired by the book, Kataq, produced by the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources.

What is Inquiry?

The Galileo Educational Network desscribes inquiry as “a dynamic process of being open to wonder and puzzlement and coming to know and understand the world. As such, it is a stance that pervades all aspects of life and is essential to the way in which knowledge is created. Inquiry is based on the belief that understanding is constructed in the process of people working and conversing together as they pose and solve the problems, make discoveries and rigorously testing the discoveries that arise in the course of shared activity.” (Link to galileo) Inquiry invites children to explore questions of interest to them related to a given topic. Through inquiry, students can cover a large numebr of curriculum outcomes through authentically exploring a topic of relevance to them.

Click here for a rubric from the Galileo Educational Network that can help you to guide your inquiry project with your students.

Why Inquire into Eels?

American eels and eeling are deeply connected to historical and present day Mi’kmaw traditions, culture and way of life. Chronicles of the importance of the Ka’t, or American eel, can be seen in its relation to its many uses within ceremonies, throughout narratives as a source of food and medicine and through legends.

American eels were once a plentiful resource; however, there is growing concern as to the decline of the eel population. Observations from local eelers correspond with scientific researchers’ work that reveals the alarming rate in which the numbers have fallen. As noted by the Bluenose Coastal Action foundation (2011),

“Historically, the American eel had the largest range of any fish species in the western hemisphere, and had a dominant position by numbers and biomass in many habitats it occupied. As such, American eel is a very important component of Canadian biodiversity, possibly playing a key role in habitats where it exists. American eel abundance has declined in Canada since the mid-1980s. Although the reasons for the decline are not completely known, key threats have been identified. These threats include fishing, dams, contaminants, and environmental degradation.”

Both scientific research and Aboriginal traditional wisdom have raised the alarm that the population of American Eel is declining. Work is currently underway within various communities and organizations to assess the reasons for this waning population. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada now considers the American eel a species of special interest. All involved in this area of research are working towards protection and restoration of the Ka’t population.

How do I Connect this to Curriculum?

Teachers are encouraged to use the Inquiry Project Details below for the appropriate grade. These projects include links to provincial Mathematics (WNCP), Science, Social, English Language Arts, Mi’kmaq Language, and other content area outcomes. These guides also contain examples of essential questions that can be used to start an inquiry project on bead work. There are also suggestions about how the bead work inquiry fits within various units within the curricula.

  • P to 6 coming soon

Links to Information on Eels

Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources collection of eel information and videos

Nova Scotia Species at Risk

John Nick Jeddore talks about Eel Spears

Eel Ladder

Eels Climb Video

Bluenose Coastal Videos

The Paq’tenkek Mi’kmaq and Ka’t (American Eel): A Case Study of Cultural Relations, Meanings, and Prospects [Canadian Journal of Native Studies, CJNS]