Materials required: projector, white board, loose leaf, pencils
Deep in the valley, a stunning vista of Wolastoqey art (Hadeel Ibrahim, CBC)
More than colours and animals, these cabins for Camp Wolastoq are a teaching tool, artist says.
Tucked away in the hills south of Perth-Andover, in the countryside and among evergreens, is a surprise smattering of colourful cabins that look surreal and a little out of place.
Four years ago, the cabins were remnants of an abandoned Bible camp. Then the Wolastoq Learning Initiative asked artist Emma Hassencahl-Perley to give them new life.
For three summers, Hassencahl-Perley painted the cabins in vibrant colours then painted an animal on each one.
And the transformation is not just decorative, she said.
Hassencahl-Perley will translate the name of the colour and animal on each cabin into Maliseet, or Wolastoqey, so camp goers — young people from First Nations in the area — can maintain some of their language.
“They will serve as language tools because I saw everything being translated into our language — the animals, the colours and even the seven sacred teachings,” she said. Hassencahl-Perley, who was born in Tobique First Nation (Neqotkuk), said that for the past few years she has been researching and learning more about her culture, including the sacred teachings that are a big part of Indigenous values.
Have students watch the short interview with Emma Hassenchal-Perley to see what teachings these are: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/tobique-colourful-cabins-maliseetlanguage-camp-1.4939986
The teachings are wisdom, truth, humility, bravery, honesty, love and respect and each is represented by an animal. At first, she thought the teachings originated with the Anishinabe people in Ontario, but she learned they are universal to everyone.
“I think it’s just been reinforcing how beautiful our culture is and it’s helped me get in touch with who I am and where I come from,” she said.
“Lucky” to have the artist
The Wolastoq Education Initiative runs the camp, about 15 kilometres south of Perth Andover, and provides science lessons to Indigenous youth.
Sky Perley, the executive director, said the site is close to Tobique First Nation (Neqotkuk) and allows kids to get out of their comfort zone without leaving their heritage behind. The camp is set on eight acres (about three hectares) of land, with a stream running through it.
“There’s a ton of wildlife there,” he said. “So, you really get to the summer camp experience. It’s tucked in right into a valley, and it’s a beautiful spot to be able to retreat to.”
“So, we’re lucky and fortunate to have the space and to have somebody like Emma. … We were lucky when we grabbed it when we did because now, she’s getting big and famous. And this is kind of one of her first projects while she was in school/out of school and she really put her heart and soul into the artwork out there.”
3 summers and counting
Hassencahl-Perley is now a curator at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.
She started the camp project in 2015, thinking it would be done quickly. But the 15 cabins needed some repairs and painting the animals to scale posed a few challenges.
“I would have to go in with chalk and then take a couple steps back or 20 steps back and then go back in and just try to pare down my shapes and my size,” she said. “I think, yeah, it wasn’t really the inspiration that brought me difficulty. … It was the process, but then I love the process.”
She said she has one or two more cabins to paint, and the camp counsellor building.
Painting the cabins every summer has been rewarding.
“I really loved going out there,” she said. “That was the best summer job I could have hoped for.”
- Read this report to the students while they examine the artwork on the cabins.
- Listen to the short video about what this work means to Emma Hassencahl-Perley.
- List the seven sacred teachings that she mentions on the whiteboard and have students describe what they think they might mean. With which animal would they be associated?
- Ask the students to design one activity for the summer camp that would teach young students these seven sacred teachings. Make sure that all seven sacred teachings are included so that all are presented and at least one student is involved in designing the activity.
Make an enlarged class copy of the photograph of the cabins. Have students place their activity under the animal that represents the teaching that has been painted on the front of the cabins.