Learning the ways

By Kassidy Christensen

March 30, 2017 12:00 AM

Geraldine Simaganis, instructor of the course, shows off a skirt she sewed during the Culturally Empowering Our Youth session at the Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre March 21, KASSIDY CHRISTENSEN LLS PHOTO

The Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre (LNFC) is promoting culture within its youth.
Culturally Empowering Our Youth sessions have been held monthly and each month a different activity has been offered to teach youth the cultural teachings of aboriginal people.
Melva Tootoosis, community intervention advocate and aboriginal liaison for cultural programming with LNFC, said the sessions started in September/October 2016 and that they were concerned their youth was losing their culture and want to bring it back and inspire them.
“We do have a lot of our own arts and crafts and (we want) to carry that on for the next generation for them to be able to experience it,” Tootoosis said.
Previous sessions included activities such as drumming lessons, beadwork, making moccasins and Métis arts and crafts, among others.
“Every month we have a different cultural activity for arts and crafts, so this month (March) we’re doing our ribbon skirts teachings,” Tootoosis said.
Developing skills, such as making ribbon skirts, is part of the passage from youth to adulthood, Tootoosis said. 
“Between that time (youth to adulthood) they have rights of passage where they teach them the skills, life skills, of the culture, of developing their identity, their language, their customs and their beliefs within that phase, we call it, till they reach adulthood and we carry that tradition on,” Tootoosis said.
The teachings start around age 12, Tootoosis said, and the group of youth attending the sessions at the LNFC ranged from age eight to 19.
As part of the sessions, an elder is paired with a youth to teach them the skills of the culture.
Tootoosis explained the custom in teaching is having an elder connect with the youth as part of the circle concept of human development.
“We always connect our elders with our youth cause they’re our teachers and educators and building that right of passage for the youth,” she said.
Marlene Gervais, a participating elder, said to her the youth are very important.
“They’re going to take over for us, you know when we get too old, (and) so they need to learn.
“They also need to learn our traditions cause we’re losing our traditions…that’s how they learn is by following us and us teaching them,” Gervais said.
Tootoosis said she identified the youth were eager to learn their culture, arts, language, customs and ceremonies, which are lacking in the urban settings.
“We need to bring the resources into the urban settings for them to have easier access to it, (and) it’s available here at the centre,” she said.
Tootoosis said she hopes the culturally empowering sessions can carry on for as long as possible.
“We need to educate our youth about our cultural teachings and our ceremonies, why we have ribbon skirts, why we have beaded outfits, why we have Métis art, there’s history behind it and that’s what they need to learn,” she said.
The next session will run in May and feature men and women’s traditional dance, Tootoosis said.
“There’s a process to getting to that level in order to dance. There’s a process and a protocol and that’s why we like to teach them the protocols also,” she said.
Tootoosis said the last session is a gathering of all of them, the youth and the elderly and whoever is participating.
“We’re having a traditional meal at the end when we’re done in June,” she said, adding it’s to give thanks for the sessions being provided.
Tootoosis wanted to extend a thank you to the elders who participated in the program.
“I really like to thank the elders who are participating in the program, and that’s our traditional, that’s how we taught our youth back then before contact.
“Still, we’re glad and honoured they’re still here and around,” she said.
“I’d like to acknowledge them.”

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