Wanipigow Project Happenings: Celebrating Culture
Monday, June 20, 2011
There are some days in Hollow Water that make me feel truly blessed and honoured to be working in this community. One of those days was on Friday, June 3rd when I was invited by Laura Hardisty, an employee at the Health Centre and good friend, to attend the closing ceremony of Cultural Week. After making the perilous journey 5 kms over the rough gravel road with potholes the size of a children's swimming pool, we arrived at Wanipigow School.
In the gymnasium, elders were displaying old artifacts, photographs and family heirlooms to interested students. At the end of the line of tables Gladys Ferchuck, founder of the Health Centre garden site, was trying to fill the missing branches in a community ancestry chart. As I followed Laura outside the back doors of the gym I was met with the sound of more than three hundred students of the school, grades K to 12, shouting, screaming and laughing as they participated in activities. Walking past a row of kids playing tug of war, we migrated to the sacred fire, where Ed had been tending to it without sleep for the duration of the cultural week. I introduced myself and in a couple of minutes, he decided it was time for the closing ceremonies.
Within minutes, the entire school, students, teacher and others were gathered around the sacred fire. Lance, a spiritual leader in the community came forward and asked for quiet by saying he would wait, “until I can hear my own heart beat”. Before too long we were all gathered around the fire in silence as the traditional ceremonies of smudging and prayer marked the end of cultural week. Looking around at all the hundreds of young faces as they sat reflectively, I couldn't remember the last time I had seen such a large group of elementary and high school students so calm and respectful. You could just feel the sense of community pride and joy swelling in this moment. I simply felt honoured to be a guest as this community celebrated their rich culture and history.