Nova Scotia

Sackville High School holds first Aboriginal cultural event

The event brought together Aboriginal elders, crafts people, and students to provide a living cultural lesson.

'The growth of our Aboriginal people depends on gatherings like this'

Traditional dancing was just one part of the cultural celebration at Sackville High School. (CBC)

Sackville High School in Lower Sackville, N.S., held its first Aboriginal cultural gathering to celebrate First Nations culture. 

Theresa Meuse, a Mi'kmaq Aboriginal student support worker at Sackville High School, has spent the last year planning the celebration. 

"We'll learn from this and then next year, it'll hopefully be bigger and better," said Meuse. 

Theresa Meuse is the Mi'kmaq Aboriginal student support worker at Sackville High School. She planned the cultural celebration. (CBC)

'Golden opportunity to bridge the gap for our young people'

On the football field there was drumming and dancing, and an opening prayer from Aboriginal Elder Doug Knockwood who was thrilled about the event. 

"It's a golden opportunity to bridge the gap for our young people coming in," the 86-year-old said.

For the students, especially the Mi'kmaq students, this was a chance to be proud. 

"I think it's important to teach other people what Aboriginal culture is about and what we do," said Julia Hunt a Grade 8 student. 

Julia Hunt says this kind of celebration is a good way for people to learn more about Aboriginal culture. (CBC)

The students learned "wela'lin" means thank-you, and that regalia is traditional clothing — not a costume. They were also taught to respect prayer time and the smudging ceremony and were told not to take pictures. 

Keeping the craft alive

Thomas Saulnier, a basket weaver from the french shore outside of Digby, was on hand to teach people about his ancient craft. 

He started with a block of wood and meticulously began the process of chopping, cutting and shaving each piece down. 

Elder Doug Knockwood believes events like this one are a golden opportunity to connect students with their history. (CBC)

"There aren't too many people who do this no more," said Saulnier. 

But he takes a lot of joy in passing on the craft. The whole day was supposed to be like a live history lesson.

"It gives the chance for Aboriginal students to feel part of their culture and to create that awareness for the whole school system. I think is just awesome," Meuse said. 

As they look ahead to next year, Knockwood thinks it's imperative that these events grow. 

"The growth of our Aboriginal people depends on gatherings like this."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

World champion curler Colleen Jones has been reporting with CBC News for nearly three decades. Follow her on Twitter @cbccolleenjones.

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