Special to the Labradorian
Last week, the Labrador Correctional Centre's inmates were given the chance to celebrate National Aboriginal Day, within the institution's walls.
Tanya Michelin, Aboriginal Correction Liaison Officer of the Department of Justice, says, “The event has occurred at the correctional centre for the past few years. With such a high concentration of Aboriginal inmates, it is very important to celebrate Aboriginal day.”
Michelin says the day is celebrated to remind the Aboriginal members that are in custody to be proud of who they are and where they come from.
Michelin helped identify the different Aboriginal groups housed in the institution and went over the differences and cultural differences with staff, so they have a better understanding of their cultural needs.
The day was celebrated with entertainment provided by Aboriginal performers the Downhomers, with traditional feast of seal meat, partridges and rabbits, followed by traditional Aboriginal games.
The highlight of the afternoon was the presentation of bicycles that had been refurbished by prison staff. These bicycles were given to the prison from the RCMP, and inmates in the prison shop had repaired them. The bicycles will be donated to the Perrault Place Community Centre for people in need.
Jefta Obed, an inmate at the institution said, “It's a great stress reliever. Usually, we're indoors, with nothing to do. This gives us a chance to get out and celebrate who we are.”
He said some of his favourite parts of the day were eating seal meat and playing “Owl Hop.”
Owl Hop is an traditional Inuit game, where you imitate other animals from your traditional home lands.
It is a distance competition, testing the strength and power of the leg muscles.
To play, you must take as many one-foot hops as possible without moving the other foot.
To win a round, you must hop the greatest distance. When played as a distance competition, the competitor can jump by himself.
The game can also be played as a race. In this case, several competitors line up beside each other and they begin hopping, attempting to outrace each other.
“This day shows us what we should be doing, on the outside,” Obed added.
Carolyn Michelin has helped out with the event every year since it began. She says that it has gotten “a lot bigger, and a lot better,” the past few years.
Part of her duties was preparing a traditional snack of fried bread with cinnamon and sugar.
“If we did this more often, people would be a lot happier,” said one of the men in the correctional centre.