Keep­ing tra­di­tional skills alive

Lev­els I and II at St. Mary’s All-Grade build ko­matik


With the guid­ance of an ex­pe­ri­enced com­mu­nity el­der and their own for­ti­tude, Mary’s Har­bour stu­dents are ac­quir­ing new tra­di­tional skills.

In fact, Level I and II stu­dents at St. Mary’s All-Grade are build­ing a ko­matik with their own hands and the in­struc­tion of Lodge Bay res­i­dent Mac Pye.

This is tak­ing place as part of the South­ern Inuit Tra­di­tional Ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram, of­fered through the Nu­natuKavut Com­mu­nity Coun­cil’s Re­search, Ed­u­ca­tion, and Cul­ture Depart­ment. It is also a part of their New­found­land and Labrador Stud­ies course.

The 11 stu­dents started work­ing on the ko­matik on Jan. 30, us­ing mostly lo­cally sawed wood – some by Pye him­self.

Pye first took the op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss with stu­dents the his­tory of the ko­matik in the area and how it has changed through­out the years.

The ko­matik has tra­di­tion­ally been used to trans­port be­long­ings. This used to be es­pe­cially the case with the chang­ing sea­sons. More than 30 years ago, it was com­mon for fam­i­lies in the Mary’s Har­bour area to move to sum­mer set­tle­ments for the cod fish­ery. How­ever, since there weren’t any snow­mo­biles back then, they had to use a dog team to trans­port their house­hold be­long­ings. In tow was the ko­matik, car­ry­ing ev­ery­thing they owned. In some sense, in that box on top of the sled, they were able to move their en­tire lives.

This was just a sam­ple of what was learned in the course of these dis­cus­sions.

From there, un­der Pye’s watch­ful eye, the stu­dents set to work on the col­lab­o­ra­tive project of build­ing the ko­matik.

This, too, has been a sub­stan­tial learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

They learned how to shape out the run­ners and, in the course of this process, got to use sim­ple hand tools, such as ham­mers, saws, and plan­ers. Once that was com­pleted, they added boards across the top, us­ing more mod­ern tools such as the elec­tric drill. And more than the build­ing, but ev­ery­thing had to be sanded down and painted.

As of Fri­day, Feb. 9, were still work­ing on it.

But the stu­dents al­ready have some things in mind as to what to do with it.

Dis­cus­sions have been had about us­ing it to carry all the ne­ces­si­ties – food, roast­ing sticks, kin­dling, and more – for an out­door out­ing

“boil up” that the school usu­ally has dur­ing Ed­u­ca­tion Week. they

More learn­ing

And the stu­dents aren’t fin­ished learn­ing tra­di­tional skills.

This was just one in a series of three projects they’ll be do­ing un­der the Nu­natuKavut pro­gram. They will also be mak­ing seal­skin crafts and warm cos­socks coats in the com­ing weeks. All three projects were se­lected by the stu­dents from a list of dif­fer­ent tra­di­tional skills in their com­mu­nity.

Ac­cord­ing to vice-prin­ci­pal Bonita Rum­bolt, since tra­di­tional New­found­land and Labrador skills of­ten go­ing by the way­side, pro­grams such as these are im­por­tant to spur in­ter­est.

There­fore, many peo­ple are happy to see young peo­ple have the op­por­tu­nity to learn these skills. Rum­bolt notes that Nu­natuKavut posted a slideshow of the ko­matik-mak­ing on Face­book and it has re­ceived well over 5,000 views in just a few days.

“It’s be­come sort of a lit­tle lo­cal vi­ral thing,” she says. “Be­cause, I guess, peo­ple are so happy to see these kinds of skills are be­ing shared in the schools.”

Stu­dents ap­plied a green coat of paint on the bot­tom of the ko­matik.


Mac Pye uses an old-fashioned hand plane to smooth out the edges on the run­ners. Pye, a lo­cal el­der, vol­un­teered to in­struct the stu­dents on the mak­ing of the ko­matik.

Grade 10 stu­dent Kolby Rum­bolt helped cut out the run­ner.

Mac Pye watches as Grade 10 stu­dent Riley Pye fas­tens the rope around the edge of the ko­matik.

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