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– with purpose and an important message to Thirders

The community of Membertou has come together to create an initiative to enhance cultural representation and community spirit in the community. It is the result of the suggestion of several community members who had seen similar projects in other indigenous communities and wanted to see something similar introduced in their community. The initiative was recently approved by Chief Terry Paul.

Once approved, the marketing team got their creative juices flowing and then the Public Works department got to work. The result is a series of orange crosswalks with white feathers painted on top of the orange. Membertou councillor Graham Marshall tells The Third that while the initiative has many purposes, one is to educate the non-Indigenous population that frequents the community. He says it is important to raise awareness about important historical events in the evolving relationship between the Mi’kmaw nation and settlers.

He says the crosswalks are part of an initiative to, “raise awareness of the first bodies found in BC. There were 215 bodies found. “This was our way of making the general public aware of Indian Residential Schools and Truth and Reconciliation and the mass graves that were found throughout Canada,” said Marshall. “We want to spread awareness…to educate the people going through our community that we will never forget about those who lost their lives.”

When asked why the first painted crosswalks surround Maupeltuewey Kina’matno’kuom, Membertou’s school, Marshall didn’t hesitate to say, “It’s all about the children,” with a smile. He then explained the important connection between the school structure and the school children.

“Our school is really an amazing architectural building. When you look at the school it has a lot of the sacred colours that are found throughout Mi’kma’ki, such as the red ocher,” says Marshall. “The elementary school is designed like a porcupine quill box. As Mi’kmaw people, when we have quill boxes, it is always our most prized and treasured items we put inside that quill box. “So, if you could open up the school as you could a quill box, you would find our most prized possession in there: our children.” The sidewalks are being well received by the community according to Marshall.

“They are bringing a sense of pride to our children. Walking across the street they can feel their ancestors walking to school with them.” Marshall suggested that learning about their practices and language in school allows the students to better connect to their history. “Every morning when they go to school that’s what the mindset is: the ancestors are walking with us, they are always here for us.”

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