The ESK students have been working on a school project all of September/October. We have made a pin’jkan which is a traditional Mi’kmaq shelter. The material was harvested by the students and constructed by the students. The only man-made material we used was the twine used to secure the structure together.
I have discovered that you cannot teach culture, you have to experience culture. No one can not teach you to be Mi’kmaq or how to do Mi’kmaq things but rather you have to go out and just practice your culture in an active classroom room outside. So twice a week we experience our culture. An active classroom where you learn by doing and not by reading or listening. We learn our culture is by doing.
The students all had lesson on what the difference was between what a teepee is and its origins and what a Pijikan is. A pijikan is a traditional Mikmaq shelter and it had a heated floor. The floor was dug up and large stones placed inside. The heat from the fire would heat the stones and retain the heat long after the fire went out.
This project changed the student’s mindset significantly. Much more than expected. Once the basic frame of the shelter was finished the students began playing house inside the frame. Only when asked if they were playing house they replied “no” we aren’t playing house were playing Lnu. Lnu is what distinguishes Mikmaq as a people. They were pretending to make primitive fire, preparing and skinning animals, and hunting animals and fish. They also pretended to pay to the creator before having their fake meal. This how concept is a breakthrough. Our students love their culture so much they pretend and play within their culture.