Sunday, June 5, 2016

Saint Michael's celebrates Heritage Day at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village

Sandra Lamouche (left) teaching hoop dancing
Josh Davis - On a sunny Wednesday, May 25, St Michael’s School hosted its annual Heritage Days at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek. A celebration of First Nations and Metis culture, students from kindergarten to grade eight spent Heritage Day playing traditional games, making bannock, practicing hoop dancing and Metis jigging, and learning from aboriginal historians. A tepee was set up towards the rear of the museum grounds, for use as the storytelling station. The Metis Association offered a horse and carriage ride to those in attendance. Native Liason for St Michael’s School Nikki Whitecow explained that the Pioneer Village was chosen as a location for the celebration as a result of the construction happening at the school. “It’s going well. You can see that the students are learning about the culture,” said Whitecow. “Some of the students from the reserve don’t grow up with it, so it’s for them too.”

Little Leaf, and his group
“It’s been overwhelming for the grounds, because there are about 300 kids here today,” said Museum president Colleen Casey Cyr. Casey Cyr explained that the location was chosen as a result of the Pioneer Villages partnership with the Metis Association. “All of our staff, with the museum, are working. All of our staff are out here.”

Metis jigging groups
“I got to do three groups today,grade four, grade five, and grade six,” said Sandra Lamouche, who instructed the hoop dancing group “They were very excited, and when they were able to do some if the moves like going into the eagle, the expressions on their faces were just priceless.” Lamouche has been hoop dancing for ten years. “They say it takes ten years to be competent in the dance, and twenty years to master it.” W 8 day elementary in Fort Macleod. This is Lamouche’s second year instructing the hoop dancing at Heritage Day. “I just did the hoop dance last year, and this year I did the hoop dance, and some workshops.”

Chief Interpreter at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Little Leaf, helped teach a group about living off the land along with Quinten Crowshoe. Little Leaf has worked at the Buffalo Jump for over eight years, and has helped out with Heritage Days in previous years. He spoke with me at length about traditional aboriginal values, as well as the history of the oppression of First Nations peoples in Canada.

“We need to get away from that system, and get into mainstream, so we can be Canadians, and have the same rights as a Russian coming here, as a Malaysian. I mean that’s good, welcome to this country. But we want to have the same rights, and the same opportunities,” said Little Leaf.“And these reserves, they’re cesspools of problems, because they don’t allow any development there. It’s a game, and it’s hopeless.” Little Leaf also spoke out against the term Blackfoot, which originated from a translation of a Cree story, and now serves as an easy way for governments to classify large and disparate groups of people. Little Leaf said his people’s true name is Soke-tapi, which means flat being, or beings of the flats. “New people rewrite our history, and they’re in our history books and our materials. So when I tell stuff I tell the practical side, and people say ‘oh thank you for that’.”

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