Children’s festival offers lesson in reconciliation through traditional beadwork

Aidyn Cresswell is searching for images inside the Musée Héritage Museum in St. Albert.

The seven-year-old is on a scavenger hunt under the watchful eye of program manager Sharon Morin.

Aidyn, one of a couple dozen Grade 2 students from Leo Nickerson Elementary School, races around pursuing patterns, colours and images among the displays of Indigenous beading.

Aidyn Cresswell participates in a scavenger hunt at the Musée Héritage Museum in St. Albert. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

“Beadwork is something that is coming back,” explains Morin, who has been in charge of programming at the museum for more than a dozen years.

“Maybe in future they’ll want to pick up a needle and some beads and create some of the work like some of the great artists around the country do,” Morin said. “I think that would be marvelous.”

Métis artists Lisa Shepherd and Kristi Bridgeman are behind the Forget-me-not, Métis Rose exhibit, while master carver Carey Newman (Ha-yalth-kingeme) is responsible for the Witness Blanket.

Both exhibits are on display until June 5.

Traditional beadwork decorate moccasins at the Musée Héritage Museum. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

After the hunt, students use markers and a small square of leather to map out their own design and simulate beading in this 45-minute program that’s part of the International Children’s Festival of the Arts.

Aidyn admits he’s never done anything like this before, but feels “pretty good” about it. 

“We were practicing for when we get older we can maybe start to bead,” he said.

Little hands learn to map out patterns as part of the planning of beadwork. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

With their hands busy, the students’ minds are more open to learning about traditional teachings and history, Morin said.

“This generation of kids are the first ones that are learning about this history. It’s exciting.”

Morin’s own family members are a part of that history.

Her grandfather Paul Villeneuve was a residential school survivor and her mother, Thelma Chalifoux, is the first Métis woman to serve in Canada’s Senate and someone who fought to reunite her own family after losing her children during the Sixties Scoop.

Sharon Morin is program manager at the Musée Héritage Museum. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

“They see the injustice and they’re learning empathy, and all of those really good traits that make a really strong, good person,” Morin said.

She gets goose bumps and feels tingly inside watching this kind of learning play out, she said.

“It really makes my heart happy that I’m able to be part of this process.”

You can see more from the International Children’s Festival of the Arts on this week’s Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV.

Grade 2 students from Leo Nickerson Elementary School show off their efforts at making traditional beading. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

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