Mi’kmaq heritage celebrated

WESTVILLE — The town hall gym rang with song, jingle dresses and the thunder of a drum Saturday afternoon. Billed as Fall Family Fun Day, the afternoon celebrated Mi’kmaq heritage and resembled something of an indoor powwow.

Although on a smaller scale than the annual summer powwow, the event featured multiple kinds of traditional dance, brightly coloured regalia, drumming, songs, info sessions, locally produced crafts and food.

Sue Fraser attended the festivitie and liked the idea of bringing such a display of Mi’kmaq culture into a different community.

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“The spirituality of it is what’s awesome, no matter where it’s at,” Fraser said. “I think it’s awesome that they do this; they should do it more often.”

Gabriel Paul, who both emceed the event and — in his bright, yellow regalia — took part in the traditional dancing, agreed that it was wonderful to bring a bit of his community’s culture into a new place.

“It’s always important to bring it to a different community,” Paul said, “especially outside the First Nations community. To showcase our dancing style, our culture, and all around the county area.”

Paul said he was pleased to see so many people from Westville turn out for the event, and said the townspeople seemed to be taking things in the right spirit.

“I’m seeing a lot of joy,” Paul said. “I see a lot of smiling. A lot of acceptance in what we’re bringing into Westville.”

Saturday’s event featured 12 dancers from Pictou Landing First Nations covering jingle, grass, men’s traditional and women’s traditional dancing.

“Jingle dance is a healing dance,” he explained. “The men’s traditional dance is a warrior’s dance, the women’s traditional dance is an honour. That’s where the circle of life starts. From our women, that’s where life starts. And that’s who we honour the most.”

For Alex Nguyen, a high school student from Vietnam currently living in Sutherlands River on an education abroad program, the event was both new and, yet, familiar.

“I’m very impressed by the drum and the dance, and their costumes of course,” she said. “I don’t really understand the meaning of the songs but the performance was good.”

Nguyen has been in Canada for two months, and said prior to arriving mostly her view of Canada was limited to the maple leaf and the Maple Leafs. The dancing, regalia and music weren’t things that she knew about Canada, but said they did remind her of her own traditional music and attire.

“They’re trying to say something but I cannot understand it,” Nguyen said.