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Students celebrate national aboriginal day at strawberry moon festivalby Julie Druker
Marcie Webster teaches Hinchinbrooke PS students how to play Dox-en-Eye
In celebration of National Aboriginal Day and also marking the end of this year's Aboriginal Education Program called the Story Telling Project, which was run is six local area schools, the Strawberry Moon Festival held at St. James Catholic School on June 24 was the final foray for students into the wealth of traditional Algonquin culture that thrives in the Sharbot Lake and surrounding areas.
The year-long program funded by the Limestone District School Board was run this year at Prince Charles, Land O' Lakes, Clarendon Central, Sharbot Lake and Hinchinbrooke public schools, as well as at St. James Catholic School.
Marcie Webster, Algonquin, and the Aboriginal program coordinator at the Child Centre in Sharbot Lake, has been running the program for the last three years. During regular monthly visits to the schools she presented various aspects of Algonquin culture: the language, the legends, story telling, and games, to name a few.
“I tried to base the monthly themes on their prior existing knowledge so, for example, on Earth Day, I spoke about Mother Earth. Earlier in March I taught them the legend of Maple Moon, which ties in with their section on maple syrup making.
Marcie is a firm believer in the importance of making the learning experience as “real” as possible for young students and she strove to present the materials in a sensorial way so that youngsters would go away from the experience with a deeper, more direct and more memorable experience.
This idea was carried over to the festival where a group of local Algonquin residents, many dressed in ceremonial attire, set up four stations and shared their specific skills with the student who rotated around to each station.
Mitch Shewell and Alison Ferrant told traditional Algonquin stories such as the Naabooze (pronounced Nanabush) Story and sang traditional songs, Wishi Ta and the Water Song; Dwight and Bev Beattie demonstrated traditional animal woodcarving; Danka Brewer told the Forgiveness Story about two brothers who become reconciled after a bitter disagreement; Marianne and Anna Marie Wilson prepared and served bannock while outside Marcie taught the children how to play a traditional Haida game called Dox-en-Eye.
Later, each school made a presentation based on what they learned throughout the program, which included songs, skits, and short dramas. Marcie presented a Miigwetch Bundle to Mrs. Putnam from Hinchinbrooke PS who was recognized for “going beyond her call of duty” by enriching the program with her own research and extra classroom activities.
For Marcie, the program is an important one and one that she is passionate about. “We have a lot of aboriginal people in the schools and whether they know it or not, I just think it’s good for all children to learn these aboriginal traditions. Also the school is required to teach it and I think some teachers who may not be familiar or comfortable with the material enjoy the fact that I can come in and present it to the students. I'm also really happy that teachers are coming out and asking aboriginal people how to effectively and sensitively teach culture in the classroom.”