Montana Band students share cultures with Nunavut

Student ambassadors have taken part in an exchange program that covers a distance of more than 1,500 kilometres.

Students from Qitiqliq Middle School of Arviat

Students from Qitiqliq Middle School of Arviat

Student ambassadors have taken part in an exchange program that covers a distance of more than 1,500 kilometres.

Kevin Buffalo, vice-principal of Meskanahk Ka Nipa Wit School on the Montana Cree Nation, took 18 students from his school all the way up to Qitiqliq Middle School (QMS) in Arviat, Nunavut recently. In return, grades 7 to 9 Qitiqliq students came to Hobbema to share their culture May 23.

The trip to Arviat was a completely new experience for Montana students. “Such a number of our students were overwhelmed.”

Students learned how to build igloos, go ice fishing and experience the life of the Inuit and learn Inuktitut. The program is part of the Trey Soosay shows off his drumming and chanting skills to students.

YMCA Youth Exchanges and Buffalo and some students took part in a trip to Ottawa, Ont. three years ago to dispel stereotypes. Those first efforts earned the school the YMCA 2010 Peace Medal.

Buffalo’s goal is to take part in the exchange trip every two or three years and this second trip has given his students a chance to travel and see other cultures. “It’s such a lovely experience for our kids…Some kids didn’t even want to come home.”

To welcome the Qitiqliq students, Buffalo organized a traditional grand entry and dance to show off their regalia and chicken dance skills. Vice-principal Tony Phinney has enjoyed sharing cultures with Meskanahk Ka Nipa Wit School students. “The experience has been eye-opening, awesome.”

They slept at the school for the duration of their stay and in four teepees set up as part of their trip. Ben Manik, Grade 8, enjoyed the grand entry presented by Buffalo and students. “It’s been pretty fun.”

As part of the sharing of cultures, two students from QMS entertained with their throat singing (katajjaq) skills. Usually performed by two female singers there is a bit of friendly competition to see if one throat singer can outlast the other. There was a marked difference between the Hobbema singers, drummers and dancers and the throat singers but the students appeared to enjoy seeing those differences.

Arviat has the third largest population in Nunavut with more than 2,300 people and sits closely with Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit. The hamlet rests on the western shore of Hudson’s Bay and Buffalo found most of the residents used ATVs and snowmobiles to get around. The community keeps together with dances every Friday and Saturday with youths first and the older folks after. He enjoyed the lessons learned from the trip. “I never knew how they made an igloo.”

Montana Chief Bradley Rabbit thanked the students for coming and he advised they take the experiences from this trip and learn from them. “Each and every day I learn something new and I learned something from these kids today.”