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Traditional moccasin making workshop will teach more than the handcraft

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Carolyn Landry is never too far away from her sister Neenie. The two travel the province – and beyond — instructing traditional Mi’kmaq handcraft workshops.

“She’s with me wherever I go on these workshops,” chuckles Carolyn.

The two visited the McCulloch Genealogy Centre last month for a traditional drum making workshop. And they will return to the Pictou location on November 21 and 22 to do a traditional moccasin making workshop.

Neenie taught her sister how to make moccasins some 16 years ago after taking a course from the Native Women’s Association of Canada. At the same time, Carolyn passed on her knowledge and expertise about drum making.

“It’s kind of a funny story how we started drum making,” she laughs.

“One day I said I need to make a drum. I had no idea what I was doing and neither did my sister, but we bought supplies and went to a friend’s house in Bear River; he made us a nice moose stew and some luskinikn (a close relative of bannock). We thought he knew what he was doing and he thought we knew what we were doing — but nobody knew what anyone was doing!”

But the end result was “two of the most beautiful drums. We still carry them around today in our teaching circles.”

Those who register for the moccasin making workshop at the McCulloch Centre will see that drum and be secure in the knowledge that the moccasins they will make are equally as beautiful.

Another travelling workshop the sisters instruct is in the Seven Sacred Teachings.

“There are seven ancient teachings aboriginal people have: respect, love, wisdom, honesty, truth, humility and courage. I usually do a two-day workshop and talk about them and give examples on how to practise the teachings so they become a way of life.”

Landry has been instructing in the Seven Sacred Teachings for many years, in high schools, at Acadia University, local organizations and more.

“Whenever I do any workshop at all that’s a part of it, because I have to honour the animal and the trees and all the human labour and everything that is involved.” She will be doing the same thing with the moccasin making workshop as well as a traditional tobacco offering and a smudge ceremony.

“I feel that there’s a deep connection to humanity. We’re all the same and we’re actually one with each other. I see that a lot in the young people — they’re so open and not as conditioned as us older folks. They have less barriers and less challenges to see the spirituality of the teachings. And as far as the seven teachings go, I don’t claim to actually teach anything, I just point people to it because we all have it inside of us.”

In addition to her instructional workshops, Landry also believes wholeheartedly in giving back. She volunteers with the recovery centre in New Minas and leads a four-week program there. “I love doing it all and will go wherever I’m asked. I’ve never said no.

“That’s what my sister and I have been doing for years. I believe that’s what we’re supposed to do. If there’s a need, the answer is yes.”

To learn more about Landry visit her Facebook page by searching Redfeathers Native Art, located in Kenvtille, or check out the moccasin workshop for yourself by contacting the McCulloch Centre.

When the sisters return to Pictou later this month, there will be two workshops in traditional Mi’kmaq moccasin making, both taking place 12-4 p.m. on Nov. 21 and 22. The two classes will ensure there is safe distancing due to COVID-19. Everyone who registers will get to take home a pair of leather moccasins. Seating is limited so anyone interested is encouraged to register early.

Pre-COVID, the Pictou facility hosted a monthly lecture series as a part of its Darby lectures, but have shifted to workshops that allow the centre to limit the number of participants and follow all of the health guidelines. As well, many people were returning to arts and crafts during the shutdown earlier this year, and with workshops, they can continue with these new hobbies that people are taking the time for.

On December 5 at 7 p.m., the McCulloch Centre will be hosting a workshop with Jamieson’s General Store as they teach how to make a traditional Christmas wreath.