Elder Nk’xetko always brings her ‘best’ drum and her Journey Song when she visits. She asks everyone to reflect as they imagine paddling in a canoe together: Where are you heading in your life, on your journey? Who is your support group? Who are your teachers? Who is in the canoe with you? How will you build yourself ‘strong’ to reach your destination?
“Paddle strong. Be strong. Be healthy. Walk in the footsteps to your destiny,” are some of her wise offerings. Think to yourself, “I am becoming strong, I have stamina. I will learn to build my muscles, mind and values.”
With the gift of Elder Nk’xetko’s and Elder Wayne’s visit, the stage was set for a week of exploration, expression, introspection, creativity and reflection. Both elders are survivors of residential schools. They opened the youthLEADarts circle with Mr. B’s grade 6/7 class at Britannia Elementary with storytelling, personal narratives, singing, drumming, and prayers that had been passed down from their ancestors. They spoke of their lives, struggles and accomplishments. They embodied resilience and spoke to how creativity can help you to overcome some of the dark spaces in life.
Elders Nk’xetko and Wayne spoke of the places from where they draw strength; nature and the drum. “Nature sparks creativity and inspiration. As I become healthy, I help you to be healthy and we help the environment and land to be healthy. The drumbeat is a heartbeat. Before you start any occasion you give four drumbeats and it means we honour and respect our ancestors. We remember and we give thanks for them. Think about those you want to remember. The drum is a voice that is why it was taken away from us. We have had to reclaim, reconnect and reintroduce ourselves to our voices.”
The youth loved Nk’xetko and Wayne’s stories about identity. They connected to the idea of being away from their moms and missing them beyond belief. They learned that every day is a new day and when you wake up you can brush off the old day as Nk’xetko did by the river with her grandmother.
Each student wrote down something from the presentation that ‘hit’ them, resonated with them. Then in groups they created poems based on those reflections and performed them.
Deep gratitude to the elders for their teachings. We celebrate them creatively in words and actions. We listened and gift you with poems inspired by you.
The Wisdom Within My Heart
I paddle the music of art.
My creativity treats everyone and everything equally with respect.
My heart sometimes feels alone when I am far from home.
My emotions spread the way of wisdom, through my body like blood.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.
I was told I was worthless.
I cried every night I was away from my mother.
Where are you Mother?
I couldn’t find her.
However, I am still resilient.
Every day is a strengthening experience.
This keeps my heartbeat strong.
I Miss Her
I miss her a lot.
She was the brightest person I knew.
She taught me how to be strong.
How to brush away the past.
She was my grandma.
Powerful with her words.
Sharing stories and experiences.
I understand that people can escape.
I wrestle with my past.
I am strong because I remember.
I am grateful that we danced together.
She still shines at night for me.
Together, we brush off yesterday.
All poems inspired by visit with Elder Nk’xetko and Wayne. Written by Justin Borsato’s Gr 6/7 class at Britannia Elementary
Jan 23rd, 2023.