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Cross-cultural experience
Three territories come together for heritage fair

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - It's a different kind of learning. It pushes students to think outside the box, grasp an idea that means something to them, research it and then present it to peers and judges.

NNSL photo/graphic

Coco Paulette of Yellowknife takes part in an art lesson with porcupine quills at Mildred Hall School Saturday as part of the concluding activities of the pan-territorial heritage fair. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

Those that have exceptional heritage projects might even get to travel a bit, like the 10 students from the Yukon and Nunavut as well as the 33 students from across the NWT who converged in Yellowknife for four days of activities, presentations and learning.

Kesha Owingayak garnered the prize for top heritage project from Nunavut. Her project about Inuit homes was a topic she wanted to immerse herself in and learn more about.

"A long time ago there were no houses and the people were poor and there was no material to build the houses. I wanted to know about the history of the homes," she said.

Owingayak, who came to the city from Arviat, did not hesitate when asked what one of her favourite experiences has been so far.

"Shopping," she said.

The heritage fair allowed students to chose a topic that they were interested in or connected to.

Weledeh School student Coco Paulette picked up the Minister's Heritage Award for the NWT for her project about her grandfather, Francois Paulette.

"I chose him because I thought of all the different things that he does for the whole world and what he does in life," she said.

"In 1973 he filed a caveat against the government of Canada and this court case recognized that the aboriginals had title when it was won. It was a huge landmark in Canadian history."

Paulette said she enjoyed interviewing her grandfather about his life and spending the extra time with him.

"I liked asking him the questions. It was nice to actually talk to him about all of this ... He saw the project and he thought it was great."

On Saturday morning at Mildred Hall School, NWT Heritage Fair co-ordinator Mindy Willett walked around to different tables where students were divided into activity groups such as beading and porcupine quilling on moose and caribou hide to make bookmarks.

The students headed to Dettah in the afternoon to continue the day's activities through pulling fishnets, making bannock and drum dancing.

She said the students, ranging from Grades 4 to 9, have participated in numerous activities since their arrival to the fair on Wednesday from hearing a dramatic presentation on the history of Yellowknife by storyteller Jamie Bastedo to experiencing a musical evening at Javaroma.

"The goal wasn't just to teach them the history of Yellowknife but to give them techniques on how to be a storyteller, how to keep your audience's interest and attention," she said.

She said the heritage fair is an educational experience through the schools with a goal to empower the students to choose a topic they are genuinely interested in.

"When that topic has something to do with finding out something about themselves and their family,

you're bridging the gap between school and community," said Willett.

"Schools haven't been always been a welcoming place. In heritage fairs, teachers aren't the experts, they're the facilitators of the learning. It's the families that are the experts on these topics. Students gain a huge sense of pride in learning about what their grandfather did or a family member did, it's pretty amazing to see them learn about their own leaders. They're getting all the same skills, research, time management, oral presentations but they're also gaining pride in their family and community."

Willett said it's always a great experience when the territories come together and the students can socialize.

"They're learning from each other, talking around the table, sharing where we live. We have a lot of commonalities across the north even though we're different. It's nice to do things north/north rather than going south."

The judging took place on Thursday and the awards were presented at Friday's dinner at the legislative assembly.

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