As Membertou First Nation celebrates Mi'kmaq History Month, it's inviting people from around Cape Breton and beyond to come and learn about Mi'kmaq language, culture and ceremonies.
"It's very important that we share our knowledge," said Membertou Heritage Park general manager Jeff Ward.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Heritage Park hosts conversational Mi'kmaq language classes for community members, Membertou staff, and anyone else who wants to attend.
"This year, we really wanted to open it up to the public too because we saw that there was a need, and not only a need, but an interest," said Ward.
To that end, the Heritage Park has increased its advertising of the classes online and in other media.
At most, about five people from outside Membertou currently take part in the classes, said Mi'kmaq language instructor Alwyn Jeddore. But he's encouraged that interest is building.
"They're very interested in the Mi'kmaq culture and the language, and they want to know more about our people. And I beam with pride when I hear people say that," said Jeddore.
Denise AuCoin is a Membertou band member who grew up off-reserve in Sydney River. At the age of 60, she recently joined the class.
"Mom was never a teacher. You could never sit her down to learn the language. So, now I'm learning it, little by little," she said.
Her goal is to be able to offer an elder a cup of tea.
Heritage Park also hosts weekly beading workshops, and Ward conducts sweat lodges twice a month. Both are open to the public.
"People have to understand, too, 66 years ago it was against the law for us to conduct ceremonies," he said. "So at this time, there's a greater acceptance that is out there. And for people to learn who we are as people and as a nation, it's a very exciting time."