2021 Vital Award - Winner Interview Series
David Muise, a dedicated Cultural Ambassador at Membertou Trade and Convention Center, is one of three individuals that won the Vital Excellence Award 2021, which was awarded to individuals who have played a vital role in their community through volunteerism, culture, leadership, innovation, etc. He is described as an important link between the First Nation and surrounding communities, and known for being a motivational, inspired and kind soul in Membertou.
Snapshot about David Muise:
1. What is the INITIAL INSPIRATION for your career choice?
Being on the Pow Wow trail and also going back to college, gave me the passion to learn more and more about the Tourism Industry.
My love for singing and dancing is an instilled pride to what connection gives you. You feel yourself open up and understand more about the world. The sharing circle of it all tells us that we are all in this world together and the teachings of the sacred Medicine Wheel colors tells us we all have to be balanced and get along in this world. That is what the pow wow means to me. Pow wows would happen every weekend. Now they are slowly starting to open up again.
David Muise (left), a dedicated Cultural Ambassador at Membertou Trade and Convention Center, is one of three individuals that won the Vital Excellence Award 2021
I received my Tourism and Travel Management Coordinator Diploma and learned a lot being an Intern for Tourism Prince Edward Island.
To take on the role of Cultural Ambassador of the Membertou Community, the leadership of Chief Terry Paul and the Council here in Membertou, this is an honor of inspiration which I am very humble for.
2. Can you share activities on one of your typical days?
On a day, it would be a song, a smudge, a greeting, a medicine pouch, a dreamcatcher workshop, a welcome, a medicine walk, a community tour or singing at events or gigs.
There are many activities that happen here and around Membertou and Unama’ki. I take part in anything that deals with singing, dancing. I did singing for Hospice, Cape Breton Hospital Foundation. I also go into schools and give Medicine Walks to the children and teachers. The portfolio of what I did not work will fill a book or two.
3. What are the difficulties to inspire people about Mi’kmaq culture?
There are no difficulties. It would happen in the person themselves. One way to connect is to show people how to get along. That’s one step. Instilling the basic teachings to participants allows them to be connected with not just mother earth, but with the people they interact with on a daily basis. Overall, it is what the person is feeling at that time.
4. Could you share one of the MISTAKES you made and the lesson from it?
One mistake that makes you feel regretful would be not showing up, being a no show. The lesson with this mistake, and you can call it a mistake or spiritual guidance, that you were not supposed to be there at that time. Something may have come up at the last minute and you had to step out. Not letting the boss know is another mistake that costs you merit.
Merit to make you feel when you work in Membertou, you are a professional and always have to be professional. In all words, have fun and be professional.
David Muise in a Dreamcatcher workshop with the faculty at the Shannon School of Business in October 2021
5. What makes you appreciate most about Cape Breton?
The people are the most important part of Cape Breton / Unama’ki. The diversity of languages and culture. I am honored to learn the Mi’kmaq language. Unama’ki is where I will relearn to speak and understand our people’s language.
6. What are the proudest CONTRIBUTIONS that you made to the community in Cape Breton?
Sharing the drum, song and dance and mixing the Membertou Mi’kmaq Medicine Walk (*). It is a three hour five senses experience. Learning the practices from the ancestors, this is taught to the people on the Medicine Walk. There is singing and dancing, language learning and testing of medicines. Overall, it’s an experience to connect with each other and learn more about yourself as you take on the experience.
Experience has helped many people connect with each other, and also learn more about the history of Membertou. Kun’tewiktuk came a long way to where it stands today as Membertou. This story always helps people understand struggle and flourish.
Kun’tewiktuk is the original community of 126 and was forcefully shipped from one encampment to the next. The Exchequer Court case that took ten years to close. From 1916 till 1926, the people of Old Kings Road had fought for their land and lost. Chief Ben Christmas had found land and their journey took them up to Membertou. The Membertou community is named after Grand Chief Henri Membertou, who was the first Mi’kmaq man and his family to be baptized to Catholicism. This happened in 1610 in Port Royal.
David Meuse (first one from the right) led a group on Mi’kmaq Medicine Walk journey in September 2021 (Source: CBisland.com)
7. Which opportunities and challenges that COVID-19 gave you?
Being on lock down for nine months, yes, you can have a lot of time to rebuild your product and delivery.
My whole life, I was not shy to perform or sing in front of crowds. I did sing a lot during the lockdown and it gave me the strength for my voice to always be able to sing for the people when requested.
I have been a pow wow singer for over twenty some years. I am still learning more about my voice. So the lockdown gave me the ability to learn more about my voice and what I can do to keep it healthy.
Moreover, the Membertou Mi’kmaq Medicine Walk Experience was going to be purchased on the Cruise Ships. That anticipation to have made it that far in two years, gave it a lot of potential to grow even more. With the setback, it gave it more thought, more growth to see opportunity and the visitors that come here to Membertou with an experience they will never forget.
“Number one in my list would be performing in front of a million or more people. Every song I sing, I make sure that the people are going to get the best song and voice my spirit has to offer.” - David
8. Describe one SUCCESS FACTOR in your journey?
The most important success factor is to believe in what you are doing, showing passion, love and dedication. Always ask for help and always know that when there is a team, anything is possible. ‘Teamwork makes the Dream work’
9. People usually make a list of 100 things to do before they die. If you have one, could you share with me three from your list?
My number one would be performing in front of a million or more people. Every song I sing, I make sure that the people are going to get the best song and voice my spirit has to offer.
Number two would be put on the biggest music show that Atlantic Canada has to offer. Music from all genres and age brackets. This would be awesome.
Number three, see all my children graduate in their studies. It is important because I tell the kids, one day, you will have to take care of me and your mother.
(*) Membertou Mi’kmaq Medicine Walk is a three-hour tour in which you will learn the medicinal practices used by our ancestors while walking through a beautifully wooded trail in Membertou. The experience then continues with a dreamcatcher workshop, the breaking of traditional (luskinikn) bread, and then shopping at Petroglyphs Gift Shop. This guided tour begins at our Membertou Welcome Centre. Since early June, our Mi’kmaq Medicine Walk has welcomed over 150 people from all over the world including Florida, Miami, Ohio, Europe and more. Book the tour here:: https://membertoutcc.com/mikmaq-medicine-walk/
Interviewed and edited: Grace Le