Kejick Bay students learn, perform traditional drumming, singing
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Waninitawingaang Memorial School grades six, seven, and eight students in Kejick Bay had the opportunity to bring their cultural learning to life when they performed traditional drumming and singing, on the school’s drum, during their Christmas concert on Dec. 19.
The students first started learning how to drum and sing, along with the history and meaning, just over a month ago from Lac Seul First Nation cultural land-based teachers.
“The drum itself was created three years ago by our schools’ outdoor education program, and the entire school made the drum. It was made from only materials that came from Kejick Bay Island. Every bit of sinew, wood, and anything that’s in the drum was locally generated material… It’s been played off-and-on since the school made it, but then we had two Lac Seul band members join the outdoor education program and they wanted to use it. They started working with my grade six, seven, and eight class and they started off teaching about songs, the meanings, and learning how to drum… With Christmas time coming, we needed an activity to do for the Christmas concert, so Joe (Wesley) and Weslie (Wabano) really started getting this song together with the class,” said Sean Tudor, Waninitawingaang Memorial School teacher.
“One of the ideas we had was, due to the fact that there was a drum at the school, was how we could utilize the drum because when I think of Anishinaabe teachings everything comes back to the ceremonial aspect of the way of life that we originally had here on the continent. We were able to bring those forward in the school because of the drum being present here,” said Joe Wesley, cultural land-based teacher.
For Joe Wesley and Weslie Wabano, they said teaching the students has been impactful and inspiring, with everyone reconnecting to the teachings together.
“This was something they were able to connect with pretty quickly… It’s been such an empowering step for not only myself but for the students because it’s almost like everyone is reconnecting to those teachings and practices, which are real, not something of the past, and they’re still strong today. We had the opportunity to share that with the students and young people that are coming up,” said Wesley.
“They’re already singing songs since that short period of time when we started coming a little bit over a month now. For me, every day I wake up and I try to do my best to be able to inspire and teach these kids about our way of life… All the teachings pretty much come from the drum,” said Wabano.
“I’m really proud of these kids and how far they’ve come in this short period of time… The first time I saw them singing by themselves I almost started crying. That’s how proud I was of these kids. Another thing that we’re doing is we’re going to be getting these students their spiritual names, and that’s a big ceremony that will be taking place sometime after the New Year. I was really surprised with how much they wanted to learn,” he said.
Some of the students said the experience has been fun, interesting, and has made them want to dive deeper into cultural teachings and practices.
“I enjoy having the opportunity to do something like this for my culture and the people around me,” said Keira Lawson, grade eight Waninitawingaang Memorial School student.
“It’s made me want to learn even more about my culture. I’m really proud to be doing this,” she added.
“It’s really fun. It’s really interesting to learn more about my culture and to sing with my friends and teachers… This drumming has also made me feel more confident in myself, and it has let me put myself out there,” said Mohoney Trout, grade eight Waninitawingaang Memorial School student.
Tudor said he was proud of his students, who participated in something that he’s never seen in his education career.
“I’m going on my 13th year teaching here, and my 16th year as an educator, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m so proud of the class and the way they took it seriously, and the credit has to go to Joe (Wesley) and Weslie (Wabano),” he said.