Students dance, sing, cheer for Nitap Day

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MEMBERTOU — Students at Membertou Elementary danced, sang, walked and cheered their way through the day Friday, as part of first-of-its-kind event designed to build friendships and discourage bullying.

Membertou Elementary principal Sharon Bernard looked on as students, from left, Destin Mulley, Colby Paul, Oceania Rose Paul, Gemini Paul, and Kianna Laporte, spent some time painting during Nitap Day, which was celebrated at several First Nations schools across the province.

And the message appeared to have an impact on the 130-plus kindergarten and elementary school students who gathered in the Membertou school gym at the end of the day. Together they started chanting "no more bullying" as they signed off from a videoconference that connected them with 10 other schools and 3,000 other students in Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey (MK) schools across Nova Scotia.

"I think the kids had a great time today," said Sharon Bernard, principal at Membertou Elementary

Known as Nitap Day, which means friendship day in the Mi’kmaq language, each participating school was connected via videoconference for the celebration and each school took turns leading a range of group activities including storytelling, community walks, physical exercise, and cultural song and dance.

Bernard said the students were also really excited to be visited by some special musical guests from their own community.

"They were quite pleased because the band Black and Grey, who wrote a song about a young girl who committed suicide, they played a big part. They surprised us. They came to visit grades 4, 5, and 6 and they performed two songs in our multicultural room," said Bernard.

Bernard said bullying is a big concern in the Membertou community and local leaders want the school to take a lead role in its prevention. She said by holding an event like Nitap Day in September, it sets a tone for the rest of the school year.

"I think it's important because it gives awareness to staff and students and the community, of bullying and what to do and who to go see if it's happening," she said.

Bernard said she was both nervous and excited about the inaugural event, but said it went so well that they're already planning to make it an annual event.

"We hope to have it every year at the same time," she said.

Nitap Day was also celebrated at Allison Bernard Memorial High School in Eskasoni, Eskasoni Elementary and Middle School, Potlotekewey School in Potlotek, Wagmatcookewey School in Wagmatcook, We’koqma’q Mi’kmaw School in Whycocomagh, L’nu Sipuk Kina’muokuom in Shubenacadie, and Pictou Landing Elementary School in Pictou Landing.

Organizations: Membertou school, Allison Bernard Memorial High School, Eskasoni Elementary and Middle School Potlotekewey School Wagmatcookewey School Mi’kmaw School Pictou Landing Elementary School

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Potlotek, Wagmatcook Whycocomagh Shubenacadie Pictou

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