‘A beautiful thing’: Nova Scotia teacher makes medicine pouches for Indigenous grads
For the last three weeks, Jessica Dupuy has been working hard to make something very special for members of the graduating class at Millwood High School in Middle Sackville, N.S.
Dupuy is a teacher and aboriginal support worker at the school.
She decided to make medicine pouches for Indigenous students as a way to make them feel recognized and encourage them to further explore their aboriginal heritage.
“I just can’t wait to explain the significance and to give it to the kids because I know how it felt getting my medicine pouch and I still have it,” Dupuy said.
“I’m 26 years old now. I’ve gone through two degrees and here I am and I still keep it to guide me.”
Dupuy said the medicine pouch has been a tradition for years — representing wisdom and spirituality.
“Medicine pouch is really, above everything else, a representation of aboriginal spirituality and it’s what connects us to the Creator,” she said.
The medicine pouch is made from deer hide. Once complete, it will contain sacred medicines like sweet grass and sage.
“You can switch out your medicines, the medicines can change, but typically they are things that are very sacred to us that will promote positivity and guidance for you.”
Dupuy said a medicine pouch is much more than a piece of jewelry.
“I would like people to know how special they are. So that when you see the grads going across the stage, its kind of like ‘oh, so there’s, you know, the native kids with leather and tassels around their necks’, I’d rather them know the meaning behind it because it’s not that at all. It’s so much bigger,” Dupuy said.
“You often need guidance and you often need clarity and to just bring yourself back to who you are, like what makes you, you and to make you feel confident in who you are and your culture and to be proud of that … It’s just, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Dupuy says 10 per cent of the population at Millwood High School is Indigenous students. Her goal is to help students better understand their culture and be proud of it.
“I have a lot of kids who come to me and they say that they don’t feel native enough. That’s a feeling that many kids have and I want to change that,” Dupuy said.
“I want to encourage cultural pride and demonstrate to the kids that culture is not a race. They’re not the same thing and I think even the public could do to know more about that.”
Matthew Hughson, a Grade 12 student at the school, received his medicine pouch on Monday.
It was something he had been waiting for.
“This is something that I’ll keep with me forever,” Hughson said.
“It’s like a big rite of passage, it’s like getting your first driver’s licence or placing your first vote,” he said. “For me, graduating almost comes secondary to getting my graduating medicine pouch.”
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