New Brunswick

Fort Folly First Nation revives Mi'kmaq cultural practices

The Fort Folly First Nation in eastern New Brunswick is bringing Mi'kmaq cultural practices back to the community with the help of cultural co-ordinator Nicole Dubé. 

New cultural co-ordinator in the eastern community teaches children language, medicines, drumming

Mi'kmaq elder Gilbert Sewell spends a month in Fort Folly First Nation every year teaching drumming and the Mi'kmaq language to children. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

At a community celebration in Fort Folly First Nation earlier this week, children were able to show off some of what they learned under the guidance of a new cultural co-ordinator.

Nicole Dubé, working with the Mi'gmaq Child and Family Services of New Brunswick Inc., has been helping restore Mi'kmaq cultural practices in the First Nation, which is almost 40 kilometres southeast of Moncton.

She started her position a year ago and works with the children every day.

"They're with me for an hour and we do the seven sacred teachings, working in the outdoor classroom building a wig wam, they go into ceremony as well doing walking trails … doing medicines and how to prepare them," Dubé said.

When people in the community want to learn something that Dubé doesn't know, such as men and women's teachings or ceremony teachings, she turns to Mi'kmaq elders like Gilbert Sewell who has been coming to Fort Folly First Nation for one month every year.

Teachings passed on

Fort Folly First Nation cultural co-ordinator Nicole Dubé is working to bring Mi'kmaq practices back to the community.  (Tori Weldon/CBC)
Sewell taught Dubé 18 years ago but as the small community 45 kilometres east of Moncton grows, she said having someone in Fort Folly full time is making a difference.

Chief Rebecca Knockwood said the children love learning, but the adults are benefiting as well and she can feel a new energy in the community. 

"It's helping the community members because we have off-reserve members who want to learn to do quill work, to do bead work and she's helping them do that, as well as learning herself," said Knockwood. "It's pretty neat."

Dubé holds a community culture night for the adults once a week to do beading and quill work. 

"I've taught them how to harvest quills, dye them and then do art work on birch bark which was once considered a dying art form," she said. "But now it's coming back." 

The First Nation used to be the smallest in the province but it is growing. It has 135 members, 50 of whom live on the reserve. Knockwood said more want to come back and live in the community but they need more housing. 

Community growing

Fort Folly First Nation was once considered the smallest First Nation in the province, but Chief Rebecca Knockwood says that's no longer the case. (Ian Bonnell/CBC)
As the community continues to grow, it's putting a focus on performing more ceremonies, including re-establishing a sweat lodge. 

But what community members really want to see happen is more children speaking Mi'kmaq.

Sewell, a member of the Pabineau First Nation in northern New Brunswick, is helping with that. 

"They were looking for someone to teach the children, because after one of the old ladies passed away nobody spoke the language," he said. 

Dubé's son, Zachery, is one of the children taking part in the cultural teachings. 

"My favourite thing is drumming because of the sound of the drum and getting the rhythm of the heart beat," he said. "The drum represents mother earth's heart and that drumming is the heart beat."

Knockwood said they are trying to revive the culture and it is slowly coming back with the help of Dubé and Sewell. . 

With files from Tori Weldon