This past year, the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) in Happy Valley-Goose Bay received an IGA grant for an initiative entitled “Culture on Campus’. Through this grant, CNA focused on the health and well being of their students by creating a stigma free zone where students celebrate their differences, learn about each other’s culture, and try to recapture some of their culture that has been lost. Cultural development is critical to the success of indigenous students, and they planned to offer learning through Elder teachings, traditional crafts, traditional food, and the sharing of stories.
First they implemented craft nights, where students came together to socialize while creating various items, including seal skin ornaments, Christmas snowman making, dream catcher making, card making and paint nights. During these events students learned new skills which included sewing techniques, painting techniques, how to make a dream catcher, as well as working with various textiles to create items of their own.
As well as this, the Labrador Friendship Centre’s seniors group visited the Aboriginal Resource Center bi-weekly. During these visits, they would gather with students and participate in crafting activities such as fly tying, painting, seal skin artwork, jewelry making, beading, and sewing projects and participate in presentations from organizations such as Them Days. Through these interactions seniors would share stories and experiences with the students, passing on traditional knowledge and the history of their culture.
The initiative also included learning about dog sledding, which was a huge success. Students learned about the history of dog sledding in Labrador from Northern Lights Dog Sledding owner/operator, Mr. Scott Hudson. Each student then had the opportunity to lead their own dog team through trails near town. Students thoroughly enjoyed the experience and everyone reported that they learned a great deal of traditional knowledge from the experience.
CNA were able to add cultural elements through two murals on campus that depicted animals and landscapes that would be found in Labrador, as well as by purchasing eight Inuit drums. the goal of which is to have students drum for events and activities such as Multicultural Day, Graduation, and Christmas celebrations.
Lastly, the initiative allowed for Friday morning mug ups, where students and staff gathered together for a coffee break and CNA staff or outside community agencies would provide a variety of information on topics such as mental health, nutrition, career or training opportunities, specific services available within the community, and cultural information. Organizations that participated included the Nunatsiavut Government, Labrador Friendship Centre, Mokami Status of Women, Labrador Grenfell Health, Serco, Labrador Institute, and the Department of Advanced Education and Skills.
Overall, this initiative was a solid success. Students that learned the art of drumming can teach others, and techniques learned by students in beading, sewing, painting and working with various textiles can now be used throughout their lives, as even be passed on to others. There’s now also an increased awareness regarding services available within the community in areas such as mental health, nutrition, as well as career and training opportunities.
The painted murals will be also displayed on the walls for many years to come.
The IGA is proud to have been a part of this highly rewarding and successful initiative!