Brynn Strelaeff

Brynn Strelaeff

Old tradition passed on in South Slocan school

Students get hands on experience with aboriginal tradition

One of the region’s oldest traditions was being grasped by some of the West Kootenay’s youngest folk.

Aboriginal students from Kindergarten to Grade 4 at South Slocan’s Brent Kennedy Elementary School received instruction in the age-old technique of caribou hair tufting, part of the cultural programming offered through Slocan Valley-based Onewolf Aboriginal Education.

In the tufting program, children learned knot tying and hand work with a needle and thread, some of the skills necessary for decoration on traditional aboriginal clothing and footwear.

For the tufting, strips of hide with attached hair is harvested from fleshed animals, dyed, dried and stored for use.

Tufts of hair are attached to velvet fabric with a canvas backing through the use of loops of thread and knotted on the back of the canvas. Designs are trimmed with scissors.

The class was one of 21 different course Onewolf founder and instructor Toni Appleby has been teaching in the area for several years to students in Kindergarten to Grade 12.

“There’s a real gap for aboriginal education in this district,” she said. “And there is a need for cultural programming,” considering the number of aboriginal students in the West Kootenay.

Other courses include medicine wheel and smudging, button blankets, totems and animal spirits, pine needle basketry, cedar bark knife sheaths, Métis flower beadwork and power necklaces.

Onewolf also offers several field trips, such as bighorn sheep to Kootenay Pass for bighorn sheep and mule deer viewing, a biodiversity fieldtrip to Spokane, a fall hiking into the crystal caves, and a rosehip tea field trip for wild edibles field trip and cookout.

For more information on the courses, contact Toni Appleby at 505-3172 or