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Nitap group poses with their wood making projects.

 

On a Tuesday evening earlier this fall, the growing crowd in the community gym at Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation was all smiles.

Amid the spirited conversations, community members gathered around tables to work on crafts and other creative projects. It’s part of a 12-week Nitap (friendship) program headed by Karla Stevens in collaboration with the Paqtnkek Community Health Center, the Municipality of the County of Antigonish Recreation department and volunteers.

Community Support

“We ran the program for 19 weeks until it ended this past June,” says Stevens, who is also from Paqtnkek. “Now, with the help of a $10,000 donation from Peace by Chocolate entrepreneur Tareq Hadhad and $3,000 from Sustainable Antigonish, we’re able to meet for six weeks in each of the next four seasons.”

In fact, a portion of the proceeds from Hadhad’s ‘Nitap Bar’ – created especially for Paqtnkek – helps raise funds to continue the program without government support.

Peace by Chocolate Nitap bars.

 

Chief Paul (PJ) Prosper says the Band’s leadership is proud of what the program has become. “It has brought together community members on a variety of projects. It represents an excellent collaboration with our neighbours and community organizers to help support community health and well-being.”

Awareness, Acceptance and Action

The weekly Nitap get-togethers are more than casual drop-in events. The program is purposefully planned to create an atmosphere of inclusion, friendship and relaxed engagement. There is an intentional focus on passing on and sharing Indigenous knowledge.

“What’s unique is that all activities are rooted in an Indigenous approach that supports a higher quality of life, resilience, spirituality and well-being,” adds Stevens.

Marie Pictou displays her drum project.

 

Councilor Tma Francis says it’s nice to see the smiles. “This program has been nothing but positive and successful from day one. We’re very proud of Karla, the team leads, and everyone involved.”

Stevens credits her team, which includes Juliana Julian, Frank Gallant and Heather Mayhew of Peak Experiences, Marlene Melanson and Amy-Leigh George. The Nova Scotia Mental Wellness team and the Mi’kmaq Family Treatment Centre also play important roles.

A quick look at the fall lineup shows a wide range of creative activities, including moccasin making, cutting boards, cheese boards, wooden spoons, beading pop sockets, Halloween candy, sweetgrass lids, wood-burning, gathering brush and making wreaths.

Most sessions include some form of recreational activity to help get the blood flowing and limbs moving.

Nitap session on plant care earlier this fall.

 

The Tuesday evening sessions at Paqtnkek are open to adults 18 years of age and older. The program also covers the cost of childcare and refreshments.

If you would like to learn more about the Nitap program, contact Karla Stevens by email at karla@awrcsasa.ca or by phone at (902) 318-5158.

Photo credits: Frank Gallant, Peak Experiences and Karla Stevens.

 


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by Richard Perry

She started out three years ago as a part-timer on the Band’s clean-up crew. Today Betty Googoo is leading several progressive initiatives to put her community at the forefront of sustainable environmental leadership.

I’m learning all the time,” says this mother of four in a recent interview. Her workstation in the Band office is surrounded by posters promoting the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Betty Googoo searches online for environmental education games for Paqtnkek youth.

Back then I knew nothing about recycling. Everything just went into the trash. So when others asked me about recycling, I went and found the Band manual and said ‘Okay crew, here we go…

Since that humble beginning, Googoo has been instrumental in getting funding through the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq’s ‘Mi’kmawey Green Communities Program’. The program offers pilot projects and works with communities to become greener, cleaner and more sustainable.

First, a new compost shed was built recently near the Health Centre to convert organics into compost for the community garden.

This will help us grow vegetables for our own use here on the reserve, or the compost can be used in flower beds,” she says. “Why not do this for ourselves? It just makes sense.

The Band’s new compost station near the Health Centre and community garden.

 

Betty was very enthusiastic about the composting initiative,” says Kate Nelson, project manager of the Mi’kmawey Green Communities Program.

She worked closely with our research and education officers to not only understand the composting process, but also to recommend a site for the compost station. Plus, she is providing leadership helping community members sort plastics, glass, paper and regular garbage. Her enthusiasm is contagious.

Just across Highway #4, Googoo takes me on a tour of a long-abandoned sawmill. It’s where she hopes the Band will build a modern ‘divert station’ for bulky waste such as old fridges, stoves, tires and hazardous materials. For safety reasons, it would be fenced-in with security cameras. Before that can happen, the huge steel beams, sheet metal and rusted machinery would have to be hauled away and sold for scrap.

Googoo tours an abandoned sawmill site that could house a future divert station for bulky and hazardous waste.

Googoo’s plans don’t stop there. She also dreams of the day when Paqtnkek will have its own recycling depot so community members would be responsible for dropping off cans and bottles.

She jokes about the occasional run-in with “a few people who still don’t get it”. It’s one reason why she enjoys hosting community meetings and workshops. She also reaches out to the younger generation by sharing age-appropriate educational materials at the Band’s pre-school.

The Confederacy’s Kate Nelson says Googoo has become a strong advocate for solid waste management at Paqtnkek.

Betty has a clear vision of how best to deliver these programs to achieve the best possible results for Paqtnkek,” says Nelson. “We are reminded of the concept of Netukulimk – to take only what is needed and waste nothing, to ensure there is something left for the next generation.

For more information on the Mi’kmawey Green Communities Program, visit http://www.mikmawconservation.ca/mikmawey-green-communities-program/.