Far from home, N.W.T. elders keep aboriginal culture alive

Sessions happen once a week and include making bannock, drum dancing and playing traditional games.

Seniors make bannock, drum dance and play traditional games

A new program is helping elders living at Aven Manor in Yellowknife practise aboriginal traditions.

The facility has residents from seven different N.W.T. aboriginal groups. Sessions happen once a week and include making bannock, drum dancing and playing traditional games.

Recently, they tossed around a moosehide ball. Many of the elders played mooseball every day growing up.

"In the game there's no rules, no teams, no winners, no losers — everybody gets a chance to get the ball," said Carol Norwegian, who runs the weekly cultural program. "Once you're tired of running, you let somebody else take the ball and run for a while." 

When it comes to making bannock, there's no need for recipes.

"A lot of them made bannock most of their lives, so they know how to," said Norwegian. "We just give them the ingredients and some can't see to measure, so we help them measure and that. Then we talk, have tea. They talk about their childhood memories, being out in the bush."

Elder Dora Lafferty has a tried and true method.

"You mix your flour with lard, it's better," she said. "That's how I used to make bannock. Sometimes the women, they melt the lard and mix it with water. I don't know how it turned out but everybody always said my bannock was good."

Norwegian said drum dance is a favourite activity of many.

"They get up and they dance," she said. "Even the ones that don't move as much, they sit in their chair. You hold their hands and they're smiling and laughing, just listening to the beat and moving their hands.

"It's so beneficial to them. Especially that smile... it makes our day."


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