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Youth explore aboriginal arts through festival

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Aboriginal youth from around the district gathered together over the Victoria Day long weekend to participate in a four-day Festival of Arts.

Hosted by Seven Generations Education Institute, the festival gave youths aged 14-21 the chance to explore non-traditional career options by participating in a variety of arts-based workshops.

Denise Bluebird, curriculum co-ordinator for Seven Generations Education Institute, decided to hold the event in hopes of teaching youth about the arts through the mind, body, and spirit of aboriginal people.

“I really wanted to hold this festival to give children the chance to see aboriginal people who have made a career in the arts and are happy where they are,” Bluebird remarked.

“There are so few role models for aboriginal kids that I felt it was time to introduce them to some very successful people that they could look up to,” she explained.

Throughout the festival, youth had the chance to participate in workshops that ranged from fashion design to star quilt-making.

“I think it’s important that children today learn about these sorts of things,” said Nicickousemenecaning resident Nancy Jones. “There are many traditions that the children are not learning to do and will eventually be lost.

“It is so important that we never lose them and continue to pass them down from generation to generation,” she stressed.

A talented hand beader, Jones spent most of Saturday demonstrating to a table full of curious students the beauty of bead work design.

“I have been doing beading for most of my life,” she admitted. “I have taught in many schools and I am always well-received. My students seem to always want to learn about what I do and love to get involved.”

Among the tasks Jones had her students working on here Saturday were a pair of adult and infant moccasins.

“My students have all been very interested and quite enthusiastic about what they have been doing,” Jones said. “It is nice to see the youth getting involved in this festival, and I am glad that I have been able to teach a few of them this important tradition.”

Vanessa Garvenes, 15, of Rainy River First Nation (Manitou Rapids), came to the festival hoping she would learn something about the aboriginal arts—and possibly walk away with some insight into a career she had not considered before.

“I have always been interested in the arts,” she said. “I thought that it would be a good idea to come to the festival and learn about my culture through these workshops.

“There are so many things that I really had never thought of before,” she added. “Most of what I have learned has been taught to me from a western culture and point of view.

“This festival has given me the chance to learn about my own people and the art that makes them distinct.”

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