Mi’kmaw elder and school to rebuild vandalized wikuom, turn ‘negative’ into ‘positive’

Click to play video: 'Mi’kmaq artisan Todd Labrador'
Mi’kmaq artisan Todd Labrador
Mi’kmaw artisan Todd Labrador has been in residence at the Lunenburg School of the Arts this month building a 16-foot traditional Mi’kmaw birchbark canoe. We talk with Todd about the build and get his thoughts on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. – Sep 30, 2021

A wikuom at a Nova Scotia school that was built with the help of a Mi’kmaw elder was vandalized over the weekend, after someone tore the bark off the structure.

The incident is being investigated as “hate-motivated” by RCMP, but the community is more focused on rebuilding.

The structure, located at Dr. John C, Wickwire Academy in Liverpool, N.S., was built in May 2019. Elder Todd Labrador guided students and staff on the project, which has been a source of pride and cultural significance.

“The area in which our Wikuom stands is very sacred ground and it has been used by many members of our school and larger community as a place to come, reflect, learn and acknowledge,” the school’s principal, Stacy Thorburn, wrote in a letter to the school that was posted on their Facebook page.

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Labrador told Global News he felt really bad for the young students when he heard about the vandalism, especially since his grandchildren were instrumental in building the wikuom and were upset by the news.

“I don’t like to think that it was hate involved, just think that it was somebody made a mistake,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the students that use it lost their cultural wikuom.”

Labrador was at the school on Tuesday — surveying the damage and making plans to repair the structure once the weather warms up.

He is a renowned birchbark canoe builder, and said that the bark has been difficult to source in the province lately due to disease.

Labrador believes the original bark on the wikuom is not in a reusable condition and admitted that finding new bark to put on it will be hard, so he’s considering using canvas instead.

The original bark, he added, can still be salvaged for different projects. As for the canvas, students can help take part in the new wikuom project by painting the material.

“I think about our ancestors who lived in wikuoms. They just kept going. One got damaged, they rebuilt and kept rebuilding and looking forward,” he said.

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“There are all kinds of possibilities that come out of this negative situation. We can turn it into a positive situation.”

Queens District RCMP is investigating the vandalism case, and said it’s believed the incident happened between March 24 and 27.

Anyone with information is asked to call RCMP at 902-354-5721 or Crime Stoppers.

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