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Welding camp connects Mi’kmaw youth to past

A Mi’kmaw elder in Nova Scotia says a four-day welding camp is helping to connect youth to their Mi’kmaw traditions through modern skilled trades.

A dozen young people, ages 12-15, participated this week in Mind Over Metal, a welding camp that teaches Indigenous youth how to weld items, such as a traditional eel spear, and then put them to use.

“[I want] to teach younger people about the traditions we had 50 years ago, to keep these traditions going for the next 20, 25 years,” said Joe Googoo Sr. of Waycobah First Nation, who taught the students how to use their handmade eel spears.

Maya Johnson, 12, of Potlotek First Nation, is one of four girls in the camp. She said that the thought of melting metal together sounded “cool”. “When you first do it, there’s sparks flying in your face,” said Johnson. “But then, it was fine after that.”

The camp was held at Strait Area Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College, in Port Hawkesbury. It’s part of a program by CWB Welding Foundation, a Canadian not-for-profit organization that certifies welders.

The Mi’kmaq program is the first of its kind in combining traditional teachings with modern trade skills.

“We thought it was really important that if we bring this camp that [the] Mi’kmaw cultural component be added,” said Jude Gerrard, a camp co-ordinator with the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, which funded the camp in part.