More visitors are drawn to Lennox Island for traditional Mi’kmaq experiences

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The Lennox Island Mi’kmaq Cultural Center is seeing increasing numbers of visitors this summer, and more people want to learn more about Indigenous culture.

Sarah Myers, project manager at the cultural center, said tours had long been offered at the site, but visitors often asked if other hands-on activities were available.

She said it has only increased with media coverage of treaty rights, the discovery of children’s remains at former residential school sites and projects to educate the public about the history of Indigenous peoples. of this continent.

“People have more of a stake in just learning from us, the real story,” Myers said.

Now First Nation visitors can pre-book three unique Mi’kmaq experiences on a new site, https://experiencelennoxisland.com/

They can learn to cook clams and bannock, make their own moosehide drum, or create a little quillwork art out of birch bark.

The cost ranges from $65 to $85 per person, with experiences lasting two to four hours.

Proud to pass on knowledge

This amount of time allows participants to learn new skills, while asking many questions about Aboriginal language, history and culture.

Savanna Rayner-Lewis is a weaver and runs many quillwork experiments. For her, sharing Mi’kmaq traditions is a source of pride.

A close-up of the drawing of an eight-pointed star that visitors to the quillwork seminar will make at the Mi’kmaq Cultural Center on Lennox Island. (Jessica Doria-Brown)

“Especially as the daughter of an Indian Day School Survivor and the granddaughter of an Indian Residential School Survivor, I feel like I’ve achieved my goal,” Rayner-Lewis said.

“I always like to be very proud of their resilience and their strength, because there are so many who did not survive this time. And I am lucky to have a family who did. done, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”

The family that unites…

Visitors like Evan Smith of Grimsby, Ontario, take advantage of the opportunities.

While vacationing in Prince Edward Island, Smith and his wife Cristina Chimienti took their sons Owen and Luka to Lennox Island to learn how to use porcupine quills to make an eight-pointed star out of a piece birch bark.

Five people stand in front of a wall of historic photos, smiling.
Savanna Rayner-Lewis (center) taught this Ontario family how to make a simple quill ornament in a recent experiment. From left to right: Cristina Chimienti, Luka Smith, Rayner-Lewis, Evan Smith and Owen Smith. (Jessica Doria-Brown)

“I really think we are, as a country, on this path of reconciliation,” Smith said.

“It was the original inhabitants who settled here and enjoyed the island and knew how important and beautiful it was, so it just seemed right to understand them firsthand, as this experience provided.”

He said it was nice to watch his family put their cell phones away and focus on creating something together while learning about native customs from Rayner-Lewis.

Three people sit around a table with a bowl of water and craft supplies in the middle.
Savanna Rayner-Lewis shows Evan Smith and Cristina Chimienti how to make porcupine quill art during a hands-on seminar at Lennox Island First Nation. (Jessica Doria-Brown)

“It kind of made us humans and Canadians a bond,” Smith said. “And I think that’s important too…Really, it’s just people who share their culture and like to do something together.”

Her 16-year-old son, Owen, said the opportunity to work with porcupine quills was an eye-opener.

“They were very sweet,” he said. “I imagined they would be stiffer. They were much softer and more flexible… And so they pinched me a bit. But it was fun.”

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Owen Smith said that for him the experience helped reinforce the importance of learning about Indigenous history and practices from Indigenous people.

“The big takeaway is that since we tried to destroy this culture, it only makes sense that we decided to learn about it, nurture it and help care for it.”

“We are here to educate people”

So far this season, approximately 900 people have traveled through the three cultural experiences offered by the Mi’kmaq Culture Centre.

Officials say new experiments are in the works. But in the meantime, anyone interested in learning more about the native customs of Prince Edward Island is welcome to stop by anytime.

“This is exactly where you want to ask those questions, because we’re here to educate people and there’s no judgment,” Myers said.

“If you want to know something, this is the best place.”

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