Students give dream catchers to newborns

Nicholas Donaldson

Last Wednesday, Lillie MacKinnon, Matt Barron, and Cierah Thompson presented 100 dream catchers to Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. on behalf of the students of Fort Frances High School.
The dream catchers will be given to newborns delivered at La Verendrye Hospital here as part of an initiative to celebrate new life and build cross-cultural relationships.
Pam King, the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education Lead for the Rainy River District School Board, first learned about the project on CBC Radio.
“I heard about a great initiative that Sheila White, the Ojibwe language teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Kenora, was promoting within her classroom,” King noted.
She was very impressed with the project, as well as the significance of the dream catchers as a gift to newborns.
“I felt I needed to make this happen in our school community and greater community, as well,” King said.
She contacted Lana Smith of the Gizhewaadiziwin Health Access Centre here to partner with the project, and also involved April Whitecrow to share the teachings and the skill in creating the dream catchers.
“An invitation was sent out to teaching staff at FFHS and five different teachers partnered up, as well as students and staff at UNFC,” King added.
The five teachers then got seven classes involved in making the dream catchers, including Ojibwe, Parenting, Families in Canada, and art.
La Verendrye sees roughly 180 births every year, with King saying the goal was to make 200 dream catchers.
Some 100 were delivered last Wednesday while the remaining 100 will be dropped off once they are completed.
The small dream catchers each are wrapped in a sterile bag and kept in a decorated pouch, and will be presented by the hospital to the families of newborn children.
King said the goal for the initiative is to build and sustain cross-cultural relationships and understanding, as well as educate students, families, and local residents in general, with a small but meaningful cultural gift.
She added that making the dream catchers, and learning about their significance, gave the students purpose while providing an opportunity for community involvement.
The dream catcher is used to keep a person’s mind and thoughts clear during sleep.
It is said that good dreams will pass through but the bad ones get caught on the webbing and the other items that are attached, such as beads and feathers.
Then in the morning, the sun shines on the dream catcher and burns away the bad dreams being held there.
King expressed her gratitude for the dedication of the teachers, students, and local partners who made this significant community endeavour possible.