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Tuesday 22 March 2011

Deep Roots

From the official NL Tourism website:

"Newfoundland and Labrador is known for its friendly people. Real and genuine, warm and welcoming, fun-loving and funny to the core, the people here are also known for their natural creativity, unique language, and knack for storytelling. Perhaps that's why, according to Macleans magazine, Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the Top 10 Friendliest Cultures in the World!"

What would happen to NL if we lost our language, storytelling, traditional activities or our unique culture? If you look closely at many of the key aspects of our culture that make us "unique" you'll see that it is routed in our rural heritage. Our songs and stories are based around fishing, forestry, farming and hunting activities. Our humility and our humor stem from our connection to the necessity of manual tasks as part of our everyday lives. The very acts of singing and storytelling are rich and deep because they were used to pass traditional knowledge and to help pass the time and keep spirits high. While our cultural activities are thankfully still vibrant in our urban areas, there is a disconnect with the basis for those activities.

I once had the pleasure of listening to Rex Murphy give a keynote speech on "rural" and in his usual style he described the sense of place and the connection to nature that comes from living in rural areas. He spoke about how the struggle of living so close to the land tends to breed people who are strong, intelligent and genuine. While he was speaking in the wider scope, he certainly included his home province in the analysis.

As a province we certainly realize the tourism potential of our unique culture and heritage. You just need to watch any of the NL tourism ads. As a province we love the ads but I don't think we really appreciate just how important the rural side of the equation really is. There are those who do understand, and they tend to be the folks who live in rural areas. Traditional activities are difficult to maintain in an age when every product is designed to remove the direct interaction with nature and traditional activities. Luckily we have people who are unwilling to let us forget our traditional ways. People like Elizabeth Penashue consider it an imperative to pass traditions onto the next generation. Check out her Blog and see the photos of her recent spring snowshoe walk.

So the next time you stroll along George Street and hear some great traditional music overflowing onto the cobblestones, remember that the music you're listening to was likely written about activities and a lifestyle that cannot exist in urban areas. We recognize the importance of our culture and our heritage but we need to recognize that the roots of our culture run deep and wide across the rural and remote areas of Newfoundland and Labrador, and those roots need attention.

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