Each year, the outdoor spaces at Dr. JC Wickwire Academy add to their outdoor spaces to improve them. This school year was no exception! They added a traditional Mi’kmaq wigwam.
This project was made possible with leadership from teacher Adam Leuschner and committee, support from Master Craftsman, Elder Todd Labrador, his daughter Melissa Labrador and her family from the Acadia First Nations, and funding from a ReconciliAction Grant.
In early March the whole school participated in a webinar with Todd where students were able to ask questions and he shared his knowledge of Mi’Kmaq Culture and Heritage. He recalled
“My father always told us that all the trees in the forest are holding hands, everything is connected and supporting each other”. Additionally he taught us Mother Earth is always trying to teach us, she is saying that we as humans need to do the same, regardless of our different backgrounds...we need to come together ...hold hands and support each other ..we will be stronger this way....” Todd Labrador from Waterdancer's Mi'kmaq Arts.
The Wigwam committee included two students who visited each classroom to explain the project and the cultural significance of the wigwam.
A key step was to prepare the school grounds before the Wigwam is built. A Smudging Ceremony was performed by members from Acadia First Nation. This was the first of many powerful and inspiring moments for the 400 students at this South Shore Elementary School.
Next, grade 4 and 5 students headed out into the woods to harvest and collect spruce roots. Spruce roots are harvested from the soil without killing the tree and allowed the students to get dirty with a purpose. These roots are then boiled and become the ‘twine’ that hold the birchbark and wood together. This step increased their knowledge and respect for the Mi’kmaq culture but had students outside in nature where they can re-connect to Mother Earth. Check out this CBC News Story on their day in the woods.
The actual build took place over three days during the end of May and many hands made for quick work of a beautiful traditional Wikuom. The pride of the students and staff radiated as they moved, held, and positioned bark, logs, and roots. And the energy was one of unity and pride when they officially opened the Wikuom on May 24th.
~ Natalie McMaster