North West College cultural day shares aboriginal culture

Elder Sid Fiddler of Waterhen Lake First Nation kicked off the college’s cultural day by setting up a teepee along Fifth Street West in Meadow Lake.

By Rhonda Cooper

Elder Sid Fiddler of Waterhen Lake First Nation kicked off the college’s cultural day by setting up a teepee along Fifth Street West in Meadow Lake.

Natasa Opekokew of Meadow Lake puts the finishing touches on her dream catcher. One of 13 available sessions, students had to pick three in which to fill their day.

The first-ever North West Regional College Cultural Day was held Oct. 13 at the Meadow Lake campus where students from across the North spent the day attending a variety of sessions ranging from significance and etiquette of ceremonies, to hands-on activities such as hair braiding.

“We decided it was important to share the aboriginal culture with our students,” said college President and CEO Brian Nylander. “This is the first time we’ve had all our students from the North together.”

Nylander said the college has done cultural events in the past but not in this particular format where students from all the programs gathered for a day of learning.

Approximately 230 staff and students spent the day at the college. Each had a designated lunch hour and had their choice of three out of a possible 13 sessions.

The day opened with Waterhen Lake First Nation’s elder Sid Fiddler and helpers erecting a teepee on the west side of the college. Although Fiddler had his own teepee and has been putting teepees up for more than 20 years, this was his first time at the college.

Natasa Opekokew of Meadow Lake puts the finishing touches on her dream catcher. One of 13 available sessions, students had to pick three in which to fill their day.

“I put it up using the Plains Cree way,” he explained. “It is south facing for a number of reasons. The prevailing winds are from the north and the maximum amount of sun exposure is from the south. The cultural belief is the spirit world lies to the south, therefore it is a way to tie the physical world to the spiritual journey.”

Danene King’s Grade 3 class from Kopahawakenum Elementary School at Flying Dust First Nation sang O Canada in Cree, then performed the Red River Jig at the opening ceremonies.

Maurice Vandale of Meadow Lake shared his musical talent by playing some traditional reels and jigs on his fiddle. The 82-year-old Meadow Lake Métis resident has been playing fiddle since he was nine.

Craig Mcleod of Cumberland House who is a student in the college’s adult basic education program in Big River enjoyed his day in Meadow Lake. His goal is to apply to the college next year to pursue either a career as a carpenter or as a mechanic.

“I liked it,” he said of the day. “I learned a lot about the Métis history and our history.”

Mcleod also attended the role models and leadership, and the dream catcher sessions.

“I made a dream catcher,” he said. “I really enjoyed that.”
Mcleod stated it was a worthwhile day and would encourage others to take advantage of the opportunity.

Student service co-ordinator Hilda Rose-Kadler deemed the day a huge success.

“I’ve been getting emails from our rural staff saying how much their students enjoyed the day,” she said. “The hands on stuff is great but one of the other sessions – elder reflections – received some fantastic feedback as well.”

The college plans to make the Cultural Day an annual event.

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