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Mi'kmaq artist shares his creative energy at P.E.I.'s National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations

A child watches as Mike Julian dances in the traditional Mi’kmaq style. Both were attending the National Indigenous Peoples Day at Confederation Landing Park in Charlottetown on June 24.
A child watches as Mike Julian dances in the traditional Mi’kmaq style. Both were attending the National Indigenous Peoples Day at Confederation Landing Park in Charlottetown on June 24. - Daniel Brown
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Mike Julian celebrates his Mi’kmaq culture by creating.

He’s a skilled craftsman and artist, well-versed in making things like wood carvings, hand-painted teepees and Mi’kmaq regalia. He also knows how to dance, sing and drum in the traditional style.

Being creative is a way for him to live his culture.

“To share that energy of the Indigenous people and the land.”

Julian was dancing in Charlottetown on Monday among about 150 people gathered for National Indigenous Peoples Day. The day was celebrated across Canada on June 21, but

Charlottetown’s event was postponed until June 24 due to poor weather.

Julian is originally from Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton, N.S., but lives on P.E.I. now.

He’s been living his culture since he was a boy. 

Being creative was just another part of growing up. His parents and relatives would make items, such as baskets, to help them survive from day to day.

He’s been sharing his tradition publicly for the past 28 years and has travelled across Canada and the United States, working to preserve the Mi’kmaq lifestyle and traditions.

“To me I’m supporting all of my Indigenous people.”

Julian’s girlfriend, Wendy Drummond, says he doesn’t do it as a job, as being creative comes quite naturally to him.

“He prays when he does it.”

English isn’t Julian’s first language, so Drummond also helps translate for him.

“He has a great wealth of knowledge in the Mi’kmaq language, which many people don’t have,” she said.

Julian also shares his knowledge by teaching others how to do what he does, from the crafts to the dancing.

“He’s been able to preserve all these traditions.”

Helping others is important to him, so sometimes he even gives his work away for free, she said.

“To keep the culture going.”

For Julian, Indigenous Peoples Day is about getting together to support one another, he said, “celebrating the culture and our ways.”
 

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