The school yard of Churchill Community High School is abuzz with activity on a sunny Wednesday in early June. Around the field, prospector tents and tipis are set up in a large circle, with people flowing in and out of each one. Today is the second day of the 6th annual Jimmy Roberts Memorial Culture Camp, and enjoying the event and the beautiful weather are students and staff from the La Ronge high school, as well as some from an elementary school in the neighboring community of Air Ronge.
The diversity and generosity of the many Elders involved is what makes this such a special event. In each tent, an Elder or group of Elders welcome visitors, ready to pass on their traditional knowledge to a new generation of youth in the community. Visitors come and go as they like, some popping in just to see what’s going on, while others stay for an hour or more preparing food, working on a craft, making music, or simply chatting and listening to stories.
A chance to learn
The atmosphere in the tents is cozy and intimate, almost like visiting someone in their living room. Each tent is filled with the tools of whatever trade it is that that particular Elder is teaching about, everything from trapping to history to birch bark crafts. There is a chance to get hands on and touch medicines and artifacts or make your own bannock or beaded bracelet. Tents are filled with laughter and encouragement as people of all ages try their hands at new skills.
For those who prefer to be active and out in the sun, there’s an opportunity to work on your jigging moves with a local expert, an ongoing game of lacrosse in the neighboring field, a moose hide to be scraped, and of course there’s always more wood that needs to be chopped!
The power of community
Tying the whole event together is a powerful sense of community. It’s in the laughs and handshakes shared between old friends reconnecting after the winter, it’s in the smiles on the students faces as they run around from tent to tent taking it all in, and most of all it’s in the words passed from one generation to another – the gift of knowledge that keeps the community’s traditions alive.