M’CHIGEENG—Ninety students from Grades 3 to 8 took part in the fourth annual Heritage Fair held at Lakeview School in M’Chigeeng on March 3. Four schools were represented with students from St. Joseph School in Sheshegwaning, Shawanosowe School in Whitefish River, Biidaaban School in Sagamok as well as the Lakeview School entering projects for the fair. This was a large number entering the competition as last year saw about 60 students.
Trinity Simon and Josephine Sagon from Zhiibaahaasing First Nation had an entry in the Heritage Fair named ‘Aboriginal Regalia.’ “We like dancing so we chose to do this,” Ms. Simon explained as she went on to say that at one time people did not like the way First Nation individuals celebrated their traditions. “It was banned right from the beginning,” Ms. Sagon added.
Summer Beaudin and Anawahs Migwans, who both live in M’Chigeeng First Nation, had a submission titled ‘We are Not a Fashion Trend’ in the intermediate division, which was Grades 7 and 8. As the students explained, “Popular celebrities have caused a controversy between them and Native Americans by wearing headdresses. In our top six we have Pharell, Khole Kardashian, Karlie Kloss from the Victoria Secret fashion show, No Doubt, Lana Del Rey and Drew Barrymore. Headdresses and bonnets were originally used to represent chiefmanship, to show people the speakers of their community. The chiefs would earn the feathers they wore by doing good things for their communities. Not to be used to look cool or to take photos while wearing these.”
This particular display was timely as the day after the Heritage Fair Canada’s well known fashion designers, Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared2, caused a public outcry when they featured First Nation apparel for Milan Fashion Week and used the hastag ‘DSquaw’ for Twitter and Instagram. ‘Squaw’ is a derogatory term for First Nation women and the brothers, facing both a social and print media backlash, took down the offensive posts.
Alexis Panamick and Kennady Nakogee, who also reside in M’Chigeeng, featured a popular band named ‘A Tribe Called Red’ for their entry. As they explained, the three-man group is famous in Canada and the United States and members DJ Shub, DJ NDN and Bear Witness play aboriginal music mixed with dance beats. “They played in Little Current,” said Kennady, “and you can hear chanting and drumming in the background.” The young women received a fourth place finish in the Intermediate Division.
Another entry was titled ‘Aboriginal Art’ and was submitted by Ashley Corbiere, Julie Panamick-Ense and Natalie Bebonang, all of M’Chigeeng First Nation. Artists Donna Debassige and Linda Pitawanakwat were featured and, as Ms. Bebonang explained, “The art is unique in its own way. Every piece of art has a story within it.”
Winners in the competition for the Junior Division were Darci Debassige and Jermaine Jacko of Lakeview School in first place with a project entitled ‘Traditional Harvesting,’ followed by Colby Billings who attends Shawanosowe School with an entry titled ‘War of 1812.’ Noah Hare and Andrew Roy took third place with ‘Sacred Medicines’ while Harmony Kaiser-Fox, Johnny Bushey and Nyron Panamick-Hare had a fourth place finish with ‘Little NHL.’ All attend Lakeview School. Raven Shawanda, a student at Shawanosowe, received fifth place with ‘Haida.’
In the Intermediate Division, Gerard Armstrong and Pierre Debassige with ‘Code Talkers’ and Summer Beaudin and Anawhas Migwans with ‘We Are Not a Fashion Trend,’ all students at Lakeview, placed first and second. ‘Trapping was Essential Back Then,’ submitted by Peter Toulouse who attends Biidaaban School, took third place with Alexis Sagon-Panamick and Kennady Nakogee came fourth for their entry on the ‘Aboriginal band.’ Grant Stonefish, a Biidaaban School student, took fifth place with ‘Family History.’
Three judges reviewed the many entries for the fair including Melanie Manitowabi, Julieanne Steedman and Evan Farquhar, who is the First Nation Student Support Program (FNSSP) Data Management and Logistics Coordinator. “This was a big feat in judging,” Mr. Farquhar said, “and it was great to see the students learning their culture and about their heritage.”