Home > The Legendary Glooscap and a Not-So Average Joe
Devin Trefry

The Legendary Glooscap and a Not-So Average Joe

by Devin Trefry, on Mon, 13 Feb 2012 | 1 comment

I proudly had the kids all ready for school when my wife Sara, in her wisdom, thought to check the cancellations to make sure that there was indeed school that morning.  As it turned out it had been cancelled in anticipation of a storm that was forecast for later that day. - On the bright side the kids were all set to tackle the day and with a packed lunch to go! 


Thankfully Sara had the day off and was able to look after the kids, though she had an appointment mid-day that meant that I had to come up with something to do with them for a couple of hours.  I had the perfect plan!

As any savvy parent would appreciate, I found something that was not only fun but was educational too!  We decided to take a tour of the Glooscap Heritage Centre & Mi'kmaw Museum at the Truro Power Centre located in Millbrook.  The 40-foot statue of Glooscap has long been a welcomed landmark for the kids when returning home from many a long road trip. A couple of years ago we had been to the National Aboriginal Day celebration (June 21) at the Centre and the kids loved the incredible display of drumming, dancing, and beautiful regalia. But despite being familiar with this local attraction we had yet to really explore what was inside.

After devouring their wonderfully packed lunches the kids barreled out of the car and raced to the Centre door, excited to meet their tour guide!  If you've never been inside, the Centre is a modern facility with a fantastic gift store off to the right, a visitor information centre to the left, and an impressive exhibit gallery with vaulted ceilings ahead.  We approached the visitor information centre counter where we met "Joe" who was set to show us around.

At the first artifact case the kids were excited to learn that their hometown of Debert was the location of one the oldest dated archeological sites in the Americas, where evidence of stone tools were found dating back 13,000 years (3 times older than the pyramids in Egypt)!  Years ago my wife and I hiked the Mi'kmawey Debert Trail nearby where interpretive panels further share the historic significance of the site.


We learned that the larger arrowheads and spear tips in the exhibit case were older than the smaller ones and that long ago the animals that were hunted for food were a lot larger than they are now (the giant beaver is still the one that gets me).  Joe shared his knowledge of local wildlife and the kids got to play "Name That Animal Pelt".  They were a little freaked out by the mink that would have once hung from a belt or loin cloth as a carrying case for tools.  I told the kids it would make a pretty cool pencil case for school but they didn't agree with me.


We discovered the unique properties of birch bark and its many uses.  I was blown away by the innovation and resourcefulness of the Mi'kmaq.  The birch bark canoe on display was just one of many incredible examples of this.


In Canada's early history (when the Indian Act was first introduced in 1876) the Mi'kmaq had to use their skills and resourcefulness to adapt to a whole new way of life.  Many became incredible at quill and bead work, wooden flower and basket making and sold their products to survive and support their families.  It was hard not to appreciate the phenomenal craftsmanship and the time that would have gone into the many fantastic pieces on display at the Centre.    

Nearing the end of our tour I mentioned to Joe that the kids' music teacher had been teaching them some Mi'kmaw songs at school.  As it turns out, Joe had the same music teacher when he was growing up!  We learned that Joe is part of an award-winning drum group called a Tribe Called Mi'kmaq and that he had won the talent show at the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition in 2011 with a solo hand-drum performance.  Although I doubt that it was part of his typical tour, I asked Joe if he would perform the song that won him the big prize at the Ex.  He graciously agreed.


The kids stood grinning from ear to ear as they listened to Joe's performance.  It was different from anything they would have listened to before on the radio and they loved every minute of it.  Joe let them each have a turn with the hand-drum and of course that was a hit (literally).  Ask any child to make noise and there's rarely a hesitation.


After the official tour had concluded we took a few minutes to stroll around the centre and explore a few of the remaining exhibits, including an interactive station that teaches how to say "hello" and "good bye" (see you again) in Mi'kmaq. We also ducked into the large theatre room where most tours (for older children and adults) typically begin with an 18-minute multi-media presentation.  The kids managed to find the hand drum again and decided to do their own little performance for Dad on the small stage.  I am not sure how culturally accurate it was, but it was entertaining nonetheless.    


Before heading out we wanted to take a couple of photos with Glooscap in the back courtyard (you don't really appreciate how tall he is until you're right at his feet).  My daughter Lienna then suggested that we better check out the gift store before leaving (I think we have a future shopper on our hands).    The store is really nice and full of handmade jewelry, dream catchers, artwork, books, clothing and decorative items.  This is definitely the spot to buy something unique for the hard-to-buy-for person on your list.


As we were leaving the kids ran back to Joe to say "Nemultes app" (see you again).  Out of curiosity I asked the kids what their favorite artifact was.  Jaden liked the birch bark moose-call and Lienna was quite taken with the bead work display (and for me it was the canoe).  All and all we had a great time and left with plenty of new-found knowledge to share with Mom at supper that evening!   


The Glooscap Heritage Centre is open all winter, Monday - Friday from 8:30am-4:30pm and in mid-May is open seven days week with extended hours for the tourism season.  Don't miss out on this wonderful Nova Scotia heritage attraction.


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    by Kyla on, March 1, 2012 10:39 PM

    Sounds like a great day. Good job, savvy dad!