The sounds of First Nations and Metis songs and dances resonated throughout the halls and gymnasium at Sacred Heart/Sacre Coeur School in Estevan last Thursday evening.
The First Nations/Metis Learning Fair attracted a lot of interest and activity as a number of First Nations and Metis visitors arrived to provide presentations including powwow drumming and dancing along with lectures on the sacred use of tobacco, the crafting of homemade toys and bracelets using natural products and the telling of a few legends.
Even the food offering for the evening took on a First Nations flavour with bannock being the food of choice for the visitors.
Louis Taypotat, Holy Family RCSSD's cultural facilitator, explained the role that elders play in the Aboriginal communities, including his own story — some of life's lessons he learned from his grandfather — while Mike Pinay, serving as emcee for the dance and drumming portion of the program provided background information on the various dances being performed in the school's gymnasium.
“When the powwow arrives, you don't get babysitters because everyone is involved in an alcohol and drug-free environment,” Pinay said. “And being a powwow drummer and dancer is not easy. If you think you're athletic, try being a dancer at a three-day powwow,” Pinay said with a chuckle.
The dancers were led by Skyler Yellowhair, Devin Bellegarde, Krystal Big Sky, Kendra Bellegarde, Robyn Morin and Sincere Toto.
In the craft areas, Kathleen Coleclough introduced the visitors to various parts of wild animals that are used for making bracelets, necklaces and clothing such as the fur pelts, teeth, claws and feathers while her husband Jeff introduced his audience to toys that could be crafted from the bones of animals and showed them a few games such as the ring and pin that were played in the First Nations and Metis communities in the past and have been passed down through the generations.
Jaimee Marks, a First Nations advocate and counsellor with Health Canada, showed her audience the difference between the “bad tobacco and the good tobacco that is blessed and used in sacred ceremonies,” pointing out the differences while also explaining the four spokes on the traditional medicine wheel.
“Tobacco ceremonies are our phone line to God,” she said with a smile. “We burn the sweetgrass and pray with the medicine wheel that includes various parts of our lives, the physical, spiritual, emotional and mental,” Marks said.
The event which began at 6 p.m. rolled to a satisfying conclusion around 8:30 as more than 200 people who had participated in the evening's information and entertainment sessions filed out of the school, knowing they had learned quite a bit more about the lives, traditions and spirituality of North America's First Peoples.