NAIT celebrated Aboriginal Culture Day and a name change to its Aboriginal Centre with a day of traditional events and ceremonies.
Previously named the Encana Aboriginal Centre, the Nîsôhkamâtotân Centre displayed the community spirit that their new name represents as they aimed to present “little snippets” of their culture to all of NAIT.
Since its creation in 2004, the centre has taken a collaborative, team-orientated approach, which led them to choosing Nîsôhkamâtotân for their new name; a Cree word meaning ‘let’s help each other’.
The new name represents the history of reconciliation in Canada and the centre hopes to help connect both Aboriginal and mainstream Canadians, inspiring community.
Outside of the name change, Derek Thunder, manager of Aboriginal Services at the centre, believes the event was a great way to represent Aboriginal culture at NAIT.
“A lot of people had the opportunity to see who Aboriginal people are and what we do in regards to expressing our culture within mainstream Canada,” said Thunder.
Aboriginal Culture Day featured a Tipi Raising, Men’s Pipe Ceremony, Women’s Circle and Smudging Ceremony, a Blanket Exercise and also included a stew and bannock lunch.
These events were chosen carefully to best represent what the centre thought NAIT should see from Aboriginal culture and to utilize the existing knowledge and skills that are present within NAIT’s Aboriginal population.
“This is what we wanted to teach about our culture … we have people on campus who are able to do these things [present the traditional customs],” said Thunder. All of the presentations and teachings were done by NAIT staff and students.
When it began in 2009, the celebration was originally held for a week but the inspiration and purpose of the ceremonies have remained the same even though only one day is dedicated to the event.
“I think it’s important that people learn about other cultures, especially the Aboriginal culture because of misconceptions … most people go to our Round Dances and Powwows [but] there’s a lot more than that… a lot of what we do is about celebrations, feasts, getting together and about community,” said Thunder. “To be able to showcase that to the entire NAIT community is an opportunity for us to say who we are.”
The staff at the centre were pleased with Aboriginal Culture Day’s results and said it went exactly to plan.
The new “Nîsôhkamâtotân Centre” signage can be seen at the E-121 office, where stew and bannock are served for free, once a month.