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Father-daughter duo Todd and Melissa Labrador are passionate about preserving their Mi'kmaw traditions


The father-daughter duo of Todd and Melissa Labrador is passionate about preserving their Mi'kmaw traditions.

"I always think, you know, education is the key to breaking down so many barriers," says Melissa Labrador. "So the more we do this in public, the more the public is able to come in and be a part of this."

These days, you'll find the pair of Mi'kmaw artisans at the Lunenburg School of the Arts. They're building a birch bark canoe, while welcoming curious visitors who wander into the workshop.

"Sometimes we don't get a lot of work done because we just talk all day," chuckles Todd. "I enjoy the chats with people, they'll give me experiences that they've had on their journey."

The pair has had a busy summer.

In August, Todd and Melissa took one of their birch bark canoes in Lunenburg harbor and sailed with Bluenose II.

It was an emotional moment for the father, daughter and their entire family.

"My great grandfather Joe Jermey actually made hoops for the mast, for the sails – the mast hoops for the Bluenose."

They're also in the process of building a traditional wigwam at Ross Farm – a museum that highlights Nova Scotia's rural heritage.

"This just adds to that whole story of Ross Farm," adds Melissa. "The history there, so by creating this project and bringing a wigwam to the farm, then you can build on all that history and that story that needs to be told of that relationship."

With the first ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation happening on Sept. 30, Todd offers some words for everyone to reflect on:

"If you look at some of the canoes I make, we have a canoe with birch bark, but every piece of bark that we put in has a different shade, a different colour," he explains. "Every person has a different shade of skin. The different colours of skin, but in the canoe, we put all those different colours together and we sew them together and they all work together, and it creates something beautiful. And I'm thinking we can do that in the future, if we come together and work together and help each other, we can create a beautiful future and that's what I hope."

You can catch Todd and Melissa Labrador working on their current birch bark canoe at the Lunenburg School of the Arts for the majority of the fall season. Top Stories

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