Ji'kmaqn-making workshop teaches youth traditional Mi'kmaw sounds
The ji'kmaqn is a Mi'kmaw musical instrument made from black ash wood
Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation in New Brunswick may soon hear more rhythmic tapping after community members attended a workshop on how to make a ji'kmaqn, a traditional Mi'kmaw instrument.
A ji'kmaqn is an instrument made out of black ash wood and is played by tapping it against one's hand or knee.
George Paul, 69, is an elder and musician and taught the five attendees about making the wooden instrument. He said he was just tickled to see young people interested in their culture because for too long it was stigmatized to embrace Mi'kmaw culture.
"It makes me feel really good that they're interested and being involved in it," said Paul.
Paul taught them how to harvest the wood and walked the group through splitting the ash logs, scraping the bark off, and shaping the ji'kmaqn.
He said the ji'kmaqn dates back to when the Mi'kmaq first wanted to enter the settler economy. They were making black ash baskets which were often prized by the Europeans.
WATCH | George Paul demonstrates the ji'kmaqn
Mi'kmaq believe in using everything they harvest, from animals to plants, so families began making tools and instruments from the extra wood.
The ji'kmaqn would often be played with the ko'jua, a Mi'kmaw traditional dance similar to the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) smoke dance.
Rebecca Dunnett, 26, project co-ordinator at the community's heritage park, is Mi'kmaw from the community and helped to organize the workshop but she was also there to learn.
"We want to make sure the young people have the opportunity to learn these skills," she said.
Nicholas Peter-Paul, 22, is also a community member and said he is happy to learn about the culture now because in his youth he rejected it. He said he was often bullied for being Mi'kmaw when he was young but as he's learned more the culture, he sees how valuable it is.
He's now a tour guide at the park and teaches Mi'kmaw kids about their culture.
"It's nice to feel like your giving that courage to the youth, 'Hey, this your culture and you shouldn't have to be ashamed of it,'" said Peter-Paul.
George Paul said he hopes as more people learn about the ji'kmaqn and ko'jua, more people will celebrate Mi'kmaw culture.
"This is so unique to the Mi'kmaq nation," said Paul.