- Created on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 13:34
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By JESSE COLE
Her forefathers were some of the first Europeans to traverse the rugged landscape of the Canadian north and they were also some of the native indigenous people of that north.
Cindy Ford-Biancaniello is half European and half Inuit. She is a full-time teaching assistant with the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) and in her spare time, she speaks on her culture, family and heritage. Biancaniello says, “Part-time I am invited out to share my family history. ... I share [my culture] with students of all ages; from kindergarten to post-secondary.”
Biancaniello made her debut appearance at Niagara College’s Welland campus last week as part of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Student Services (FNMISS) Aboriginal Traditional Teachings program. It brings speakers from all walks of aboriginal life to the college to speak on the traditions and cultures of their people.
Biancaniello is the third of five scheduled speakers this semester. A current resident of St. Catharines, Biancaniello grew up in her families’ ancestral home of Baker Lake, Nunavut. The granddaughter of Henry Ford (no, not the American industrialist), one of the first Europeans to make contact with the Inuit People of the region, Biancaniello was born to Ford and her Inuit grandmother.
Biancaniello spoke first to students in Simcoe building’s FNMISS office where she showed and spoke about traditional Inuit clothing, artwork and tools such as a traditional Inuit parka known as an Amautiq and a spherical all-purpose knife used only by women, called an Ulu.
“I have a lot of artifacts that I bring with me, a lot of traditional clothing, artwork, books. I try to share as much of my culture as I can,” she explained.
Louise Hickey, the Aboriginal student adviser, with the FNMISS department, spoke about the impact Biancaniello’s presentation had on her saying, “Of all the speakers, Biancaniello’s presentation is probably the closest to my heart as I lived in the central Arctic for 10 years and my children are status Inuit from Resolute Bay.” Hickey adds, “It [the Inuit culture] is probably the least understood of all Aboriginal cultures. This is a culture that transitioned from stone-age to the computer-age within a generation.”
After the brief presentation, students and faculty were invited to participate in a smudge, the traditional practice of cleansing one’s inner self with the smoke from smoldering sage, with Biancaniello.
Later in the session, Biancaniello presented her culture, family history and knowledge of Canada’s high north society to students in the International Department. She spoke briefly before showing a short documentary about her family history in Baker Lake and their struggle to preserve and propagate that culture and heritage. A series of stills shot by Biancaniello’s grandfather, showcasing some of the first encounters between Europeans and Inuit people, were also shown. They are available online through the government of Canada.
Biancaniello spoke to the importance of these kinds of presentations saying, “What I do is beneficial to all students – it is, but I think that we need to teach ourselves first, so that we can carry on those teachings within our culture.”