Trevor Sanipass is happy to to share his heritage and culture with whomever he can, and he did just that on Sunday at the McCulloch House Museum and Genealogy Centre to help the centre celebrate Mi’kmaq Heritage Month.
Sanipass, originally from from Eskasoni, travels widely giving cultural presentations about the Mi’kmaq and the traditions that are a part of his culture.
Sanipass shared the four basic medicines of the Mi’kmaq: sweet grass, cedar, tobacco and sage. He also brought a sample of each to pass around and have group members see and smell each of the items. As samples were being passed around, Sanipass shared that the sweet grass was braided to signify mind, body and spirit.
He went on to burn sage leaves and give everyone in the group the opportunity to smudge, which is when you burn sage (white buffalo sage) and waft the smoke over your head, to your eyes, ears, mouth and heart. Each of these steps is to help one see the good in people, hear good in people, speak good things and to have a good heart. As the savoury smell of sage burned in the room each of the participants made their way up to participate in the smudging.
“Elders are very respected in our community,” shared Sanipass, as he spoke about the elders that taught him much of the cultural knowledge that he enjoys passing on to others today. He added that having the opportunity to learn about his culture from people that he respected so much was incredibly exciting to him and something he is so happy to have the chance to be a part of.
As Mi’kmaq culture is become better known today and steps are being taken toward reconciliation for residential school survivors and other wrongs against First Nations people, Sanipass and others are also trying to spread the message that First Nations people are not the only ‘Treaty people’.
“Everyone thinks treaties are a First Nations thing,” he said. “It’s everyone’s treaty…we are all treaty people.”
The push to think of everyone — not just First Nations people — as ‘treaty people’ is born from the fact that not only did First Nations people sign the treaties but the European leaders as well. Therefore those of European descent also have a tie to the treaties and should learn about this history, too, he said.
“It’s a big part of our history,” said Anne Gratton, one of the audience members. “It was lovely; people are becoming more concerned with mindfulness.”
Education about First Nations culture and history of the First Nations in Canada is what Sanipass talks about. Sharing about the great changes and people that represent the First Nations is something he enjoys seeing and hearing about, hoping that the stigma or stereotypes of First Nations people will end. He really enjoys sharing the spirituality of the culture to others as well.
He added that there are always a lot of things that the audience does not realize about First Nations People during his talks.
“One of them is even when we became Canadian citizens and (were) allowed to vote,” he said, which he had shared was 1956 for Canadian citizenship and 1960 to vote. He said he tries to share his culture as much as possible whether through presentations and word of mouth or through social media.
“It’s a 24/7 thing, not just one month,” he said.
Members of the audience take part in smudging during Trevor Sanipass’ presentation on Mi’kmaq culture at the McCulloch House Museum and Genealogy Centre presentation for Mi’kmaq Heritage Month on Sunday. (Brimicombe photo)