Valerie Allan | Jun 18, 2015

On June 10, NAEC was fortunate to welcome Tammy and Bernard Nelson to teach workshops. The workshops were attended by Mrs. Pelow’s Grade 6 class, Mr. Hill’s Grade 8 class, Mr. Pelow’s Restart class, Ms. Cuddy’s Grade 2 class, and Mr. Rewbotham’s Grade 5 class.

Prior to the workshops, Tammy and Bernard set up a sacred altar, with a buffalo rug, decorated buffalo skull, and various other sacred objects, including different coloured squares of material. Each workshop started with an opening prayer done in the Oji-Cree language. Bernard then explained the sacred pipe, and translated his prayer. Tammy explained the four clan animals Bernard works with, the four sacred medicines and their purpose, and the four directions.

Each student made a prayer tie. This consisted of a red square of felt, into which sacred tobacco was put, and the square was tied off with red wool, to create a little, sealed bag. Students were told to think of family members or friends for whom they would like prayers for healing or other concerns, while making the tie. Bernard and Tammy collected the prayer ties, and will take them to the Sundance Ceremony they are attending this summer to include them in the prayers that will be offered.

The Nelsons also provided drum teaching and finished the workshop with the students drumming, which was an activity the students clearly enjoyed, and then students were given the opportunity to ask questions.

Students and staff said they really enjoyed the workshops. The Grade 6 class was very engaged. Olivia Douglas said, “Something that I learned was that they pray for animals they kill, and that’s good.” Edison McGarvey agreed, saying, “I enjoyed learning about how they kill animals. First they pray and then they put tobacco on the ground and ask to take an animal’s life.” Diana Weichenthal remarked, “It was very interesting and I thought they did a good job describing their culture. It was a fun and very informative morning.” Jaydin Reid added, “I would love to do it again!” Grade 8 students were equally enthusiastic. “It was cool because the guy was a survivor of residential schools,” commented Alex McInnis. Kayla Newman said, “It was interesting to learn about their culture.”

As well as travelling the province, teaching people about First Nations culture, Tammy and Bernard host sweat lodges at their home in Inverary, and are traditional sundancers. Bernard is also an Elder at RMC, acting as a mentor for First Nations and Metis people at the college.

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