Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Journey into Cree Culture

By Manna Sainju, 1st Year MDP student

I arrived at Blue Quills First Nations College (BQFNC or the College) on a clear Wednesday afternoon in May. As I entered the gate of the College, I felt mixed emotions of how I would be spending my summer at what used to be a former residential school for First Nations children up until 1971. Just the past semester, I had learnt about the brutal history and heart wrenching stories of survivors of residential schools. But, as I was taken around to be introduced to the staff and faculty of the college, I felt a great sense of hope, calmness and peace. As the Cultural Camp was just around the corner, everyone was busy with its preparation. The College hosts the annual Cultural Camp each spring where the college students and local community members participate in a series of cultural practices. I realized I was very lucky to be able to witness such a ceremony, and hoped I would take back a learning that had been passed down from the ancestors of this land. 
Tipis at Blue Quills Cultural Camp grounds

And indeed, it was a unique experiential learning for me as I participated in the Pipe Ceremonies, Chicken Dance Ceremonies and learnt from the Elders. I got a glimpse of the Cree worldview which looks at the entire existence as an unbroken whole. The Cree cultural practices respect the interconnectedness of all the elements in nature and seek for its people to live in harmony.   

The experience of being a part of the Camp will always remain with me. It has brought me closer to my spiritual aspect which I think is the goal of all traditional practices. And, in a way the indigenous practices work at the heart of it and creates a magical experience.  

The Cultural Camp was a perfect beginning for my field placement. I felt a sense of belonging and even greater will to learn and contribute. The College currently has numerous projects that continue to make it a leading post-secondary institution on Indigenous education. As a part of my field placement, I have been working on developing a workshop curriculum for the Indigenous Knowledge Mentorship Program and also developing a program that focuses on promoting trade and volunteerism between First Nations and Indigenous groups around the world.

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