Become an interpreter

I spent last weekend at Kejimkujik National Park with the family. Aside from the biking, hiking and swimming, we also took the kids to a number of interpretive programs. I’ve been going to Keji for about thirty years with my family. I introduced my girlfriend to it in university, and now that we’re married we take our kids there.

One of the things I’ve always been struck by at the park is the quality of the interpretive programs. Unfortunately, there was a very limited selection of programs on tap for Canada Day weekend, but the ones we got to experience were fantastic, as always. Apparently, the frequency of programs will be increasing as the summer gets going.

The first interpretive program we took in was from a young Mi’kmaw interpreter who was discussing flint napping, or the creation of arrowheads by napping at the rock, in this case, obsidian. Not only was he very personable, but he really helped to get us in the mood for the experience by setting the stage.

The session was held on Kedge beach at dusk. A small fire was going in a little fire pit, and a skin of some description was spread out in front of the interpreter. On it were placed a number of Mi’kmaq artifacts including baskets, an axe, samples of previously-made arrowheads among other things. He also had samples of stone and various tools used in the napping process.

So, after the stage was set, he began to walk us through the process of creating an arrowhead. It’s a fairly painstaking process, and basically you just have to go with what the stone has in mind, as you can only shape it so much. He described past experiences, how he had learned his craft and he talked about the fact that there are ‘nap-ins’ where flint nappers gather and share stories and secrets about how to hone the craft. While this was surprising in some way, I guess given the proliferation of knit-ins and other strange activity gatherings promoted on the internet, i can see how this obscure pastime could generate this kind of interest.

However, the thing I found most interesting were the stories he related about growing up in a Mi’kmaq home. How he had taken a vision quest as a teenager to learn how to become a man, and how no one in his culture really did this any more. How his grandfather had made him apologize to the fire one time after he spat in it as a child. When he questioned this, his grandfather said “Fire was very important to our ancestors. That fire gives you warmth, light and protection from animals. It cooks your food. Don’t disrespect it, it’s too important to us.”

Relaying these personal moments, while at the same time demonstrating your expertise at a task are what social media’s all about for me. I’ve said before that it’s important to make it personal. I think corporate and business bloggers could learn a great deal from Parks Canada interpreters.

  • Make sure that aside from simply sharing your grasp of the subject matter that you set the stage and provide some context for your post.
  • Show your expertise by example, don’t just tell people how to do it.
  • Lastly, share anecdotes from your personal experience. These stories add colour and interest and prove that you’re a real person.

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