A tradition can hardly support the name if it’s not passed on, something those at the Yamozha Kue Society, more commonly known as the Dene Cultural Institute, knows all too well.
“There are so much beautiful things you can do, even learning songs and stories,” said Georgina Fabian last week. “But kids these days are scared of the land.”
To help rectify the situation and promote culture, Fabian and a number of other local Dene artists got together to put on two days of crafting and cultural workshops for young people at the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre last week. Despite a disappointing turnout, Fabian said she enjoyed the event and saw value in organizing more like it.
“I thought it would be good to have like a trade show, but where people can come out and teach young people about the culture and the art,” she said. “Less business, more creative.”
Kathy Mouse was one of a handful of artists at the centre on Friday afternoon. An accomplished crafter, she said she is still learning.
“My mum passed beading and everything down to me,” she said. “The elders, they’ve taught me everything, and they’re still teaching me.”
Mouse lamented the lack of moose hide tanning happening in the community particularly. She has taught her eldest daughter, who now makes slippers like her mother, and said there was nothing more rewarding than teaching children how to make something with their hands.
“You hear people talking, saying our traditions are dying, that we’re losing it,” Mouse said. “But here we are, getting together and teaching things like beading and tanning to others, and it’s to keep that traditional style of life. We need to encourage the young ones to attend.”
Fabian agreed, admitting that perhaps the timing was wrong, that perhaps the workshops should have been held on a Saturday and better advertised, but maintained that there is great value in and a need to pass on traditional skills.
“They’ll walk away feeling good that they’ve done something for themselves,” she said. “Everyone is so busy all the time now, always on their phones and iPods… kids are scared to sit on the ground… they don’t want the little bugs crawling on them.”
Fabian said she thinks children have become disconnected from the land because they have forgotten how to listen without distraction. She hopes that the event combining workshops and a tradeshow will become a yearly staple in the community and that more young people will attend and get interested in what they see there.
“My mother would sit by the candlelight and sew, and she would tell me stories and it was so good,” she said. “I still miss it.”