Traditions and Language: Oasis Programs Adapted During Pandemic

By: Nickita Longman April, 2021

In 2019, the Nipawin Oasis Centre (Oasis) had experienced an incredibly successful summer of programming, but in 2020, as winter rolled around and the global pandemic hit, the Oasis staff had to re­evaluate the way they would deliver their programming for the unforeseeable future.

The Oasis has been a cultural hub for the northern community, providing programming, cultural support, family and housing support, and employment services for the past 28 years. Under normal circumstances, programming such as traditional teachings, beadwork, traditional parenting, Cree language and Elder Services, operated under a drop­in, open­door basis. Weekly traditional beadwork and after­school programs saw plenty of visitors through the door.

Oasis organizers noted that last summer, the programming and supports offered growth in cultural development for youth while strengthening relationships with Elders and Knowledge Keepers around the community. According to Joy Hanson, executive director, perhaps the most thriving areas of programming were in traditional pow wow singing and dancing, where youth were able to showcase their skills throughout the summer pow wow season.

However, like many cultural organizations, the centre has continued to adapt the way it delivers its support as the community came under lock­down while COVID­19 cases were on the rise.

Supporting the Elders in the community became a priority for the Oasis, Hanson explains. “We have stayed engaged with the Elders and continued to provide nutrition, regular check­ins, and any supplies they need.”

As far as community efforts go, Hanson says the Oasis staff have been delivering craft supplies to members who are engaging in traditional crafts.

“We provide hide, needles, thread, sherpa and printed patterns,” she says. “Several of the women and children have been sewing cloth masks. We have been helping support the sales of these during this financially challenging time."

Hanson explains that social media has been a useful tool in continuing the cultural support of the Oasis. “Facebook groups have allowed us to keep in contact, share ideas, and connect with the youth as well.” The Oasis has created specific groups to meet cultural needs, such as a beadwork group and a drumming and dancing group.

Although meeting in the centre’s space has been restricted, Hanson says the organization will continue to adapt to the needs of the community. “When the community has a request for something, we try our best to meet it, and that usually starts with finding a cultural leader to get that request met.”

The Nipawin Oasis Centre received support through SaskCulture’s Aboriginal Arts and Culture Leadership Grant, with funding from Sask Lotteries.