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Pomquet and Paqtnkek students learn together

With a teepee as a central gathering place, outdoor activities such as wood cutting and food preparation take place at a location near École acadienne de Pomquet. Students from that school were joined by students from Paqtnkek for the day which was supported by warm, early-May sunshine.
With a teepee as a central gathering place, outdoor activities such as wood cutting and food preparation take place at a location near École acadienne de Pomquet. Students from that school were joined by students from Paqtnkek for the day which was supported by warm, early-May sunshine. - Richard MacKenzie

A bonding of communities

POMQUET, N.S. —

A bright sun and warm temperature provided an ideal setting for an outdoor activity May 3, which brought together students from École acadienne de Pomquet and Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation.

Initiated by teacher Chris Demers from the Pomquet school, the students participated in a variety of survival chores as a group.

École acadienne de Pomquet students John Cameron (left) and Nick LeBlanc perform wood cutting duties.
École acadienne de Pomquet students John Cameron (left) and Nick LeBlanc perform wood cutting duties.

“It’s more than surviving, it’s striving,” Demers said, as the bustling of activity went on around him and other supervisors, from École acadienne de Pomquet, Paqtnkek and East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy.

“There are a lot of chores which need to be done; wood-cutting, wood-splitting with an axe, fire making, cooking … there are a lot of skills being learned in order to provide for oneself.

“They have all of what they need here, but they have to learn the skills in order to turn the primary ingredients into a fire or food they can eat. All of this is done under a teepee-like structure, which we built ourselves. The bench, the table, everything we built ourselves.”

As well as the outdoor skills being taught, there was the element of two groups coming together to share culture and appreciation.

“Just like the first day we landed here and they welcomed us,” Demers said.

“The big thing today, and this is what I told Mike (Taylor, youth worker from Paqtnkek) when I originally met him, we’re just trying to say thank you for welcoming us 400 years ago and we would like to invite you here and return the favour, today. And, hopefully, it’s just the beginning of a new and long process.

“The teepee door is square but, usually, in the traditional way, the door would be round because life is never ending … it’s just a circle. That’s what we’re doing here today; it’s all part of a learning process and hopefully there will never be an end to what we’re doing here. We’re just going to keep people involved and keep progressing.”

Taylor said it’s important for the Mi’kmaw students to see partnerships which can be formed.

“That we can work together as one; become a group,” he said.

Students Jia Li Rennie (left), Makayla Hynes and Rochele Williams work on food preparation.
Students Jia Li Rennie (left), Makayla Hynes and Rochele Williams work on food preparation.

“Instead of being this way as communities, we can be this way – as one,” Taylor added, gesturing with his hands and arms, first apart and then bringing them together.

Like Demers, Taylor said this could be the first step in many.

“Have this day and on another, we’ll have something else; these students will come to our community and help build the teepee there,” he said.

“So there is another form of community building then. Basically, it’s having the Mi’kmaw bond with Acadians because we’re neighbours, we should be working together.”

East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy Grade 10 student Noah Bennett performing wood splitting duties.
East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy Grade 10 student Noah Bennett performing wood splitting duties.

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