Little Tornados – a Webequie Lesson

We got off the plane in Webequie, and the pilot took a little brush broom and swept the pavement just below the propeller. I asked him why he was doing that. For seven years I’ve been flying into these remote communities and only noticed this now.

He pointed at the concrete and made a swirling motion with the brush. “There are these little pebbles that, when the prop starts moving, go into a little tornado right here. They climb up the blades. See the blades? They get these little knicks from the rocks. A four thousand dollar blade can be saved by a three dollar broom.”

I immediately thought, that’s a metaphor for something. Hmm. Wonder what?

I sit now, having had a day to get settled into Webequie life once again, and think about that blade. And I find it fascinating. That little tornadoes can do so much damage.

I’m here, once again, to work with Webequie youth, their teachers and elders on a project that will be presented to the community culminating in a show complete with photography, poetry, dance, stage-craft and song. This year we’re doing a Black Light Theatre piece. Over 30 kids are involved.

We’re getting over the shyness very quickly. We have fantastic teachers helping us, and Beulah Wabasse, one of the most forgiving women I know, is helping with the traditional knowledge that supports the stories and music. Our grade 7 / 8 teachers Paula Bird and Dave Donner are enthusiastically jumping in. Terry Wabasse, our grade eight TA, knows every kid and helps with the traffic control with a keen eye and sense of humour.

Laura MacKinnon, our LeadImage Teacher, is teaching the students the DAREarts values. (Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence) Glenn MaraisImage, composer and killer guitarist, is leading us in a song-writing workshop. I’ll be putting it all together along with our choreographer (Lee Pham) and film maker-actor Jeremy Proulx.

I can’t wait until we start putting all of these ideas into our four season, four direction exploration of light! The thoughtfulness of these kids never ceases to surprise me, even though I know that they are truly artistic human beings. The words and phrases are filling up reams of paper and memory already, and this is only day one.

That blade comes back to mind. Here’s the metaphor: It’s our community. The pebbles are isolation, marginalization, neglect and hopelessness. Those little tornados tear our northern communities apart, creating big financial problems and a workforce deficit. It doesn’t take much to sweep away those pebbles. With the comparatively small amount of energy and funding we’re all putting into these kids, –everyone, their teachers and elders and the kids themselves, are saving Canada a lot of grief and waste. This is something that builds strength, pride, excellence and a future for these kids. And for these communities, savings in health care, welfare, human despair and grief. The little broom really works.

-Cathy Elliott, Nee-tum-ochi-bek Leader

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