A small class of four adults will be literally bridging communities by holding a culturally-themed event on the ice crossing between Hay River and the Hay River Reserve in early February.
The cultural day is planned as part of the Aboriginal Language and Cultural Instructor Program through Aurora College. It’s a segment of the course that involves planning public events and practical use of the South Slavey language.
The students attend class at the Daniel Sonfrere Community Learning Centre on the reserve.
They have planned small-scale community events before, but none that reach out to all communities.
“This is so students can interact with people and get used to hearing and speaking the language,” said instructor Dorothy Buckley. “This is part of the process of relearning in order to keep propagating the culture.”
Knowledge of living off the land still exists within a current generation. The South Slavey language reflects this as a very descriptive, practical language. While many still retain this knowledge, some of the students had to learn from scratch through hands-on activities like moose tanning, cooking and crafting, in order to make the language applicable.
“I can take a bush chicken and set it on fire right outside, but not everyone can do that,” said Buckley. “Some students weren’t able to experience that in their walk of life.”
The program is the first of its kind at the college. At the Daniel Sonfrere Community Learning Centre, students are taught practical means of teaching, using and sharing South Slavey with students and others in the community.
Six tents will be set up along the ice crossing, along with one warming tent on land. Along with food consisting of moose meat, rabbit and fish, there will be traditional Dene games, storytelling and possibly snowshoeing and dogsled rides, with the help of many volunteers.
A schedule of events will be posted around town and on Facebook in the coming weeks. The event, which is free and open to everyone, is set to take place from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. with a fire-feeding ceremony to kick off the activities.