Dream catcher

Nicole Bell had a vision: a new kind of school where aboriginal kids could learn about their culture, no matter where they live. Her make-it-happen attitude can show all of us what it means to reconnect with our roots.

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A moment of peace

Home for Nicole is just up the road from the school. It’s the very house her husband grew up in, with a “backyard” that includes a spectacular stretch of country, a sparkling section of the Trent-Severn Waterway and a tiny island with a log cabin. By the time Nicole gets home, her two older boys are already fishing, while seven-year-old Wassinode (“northern light”) is helping to mow the lawn. Meanwhile, four-year-old Zhaawnong (“southern star”) runs out to the back deck and happily pees off the edge into the bush below. Seeing him, laughter bubbles up in Nicole as she says, “The joys of living in the country!” And then there is Adrian, whom Nicole has married twice—first in a traditional ceremony with Elders presiding, then in a Catholic church, where they both wore buckskin. This man, who knows Nicole better than anyone, says that it hasn’t always been easy for her. “She works long hours and she can handle a lot of stress at school, but sometimes she lets go with me—not at me—but with me,” he says. Nicole, who is sitting down for probably the first time all day, tries to explain why she does what she does. “The Elders teach us that when you pass into the spirit world, you’ll be asked, ‘What have you done with the time you have been given?'” Nicole, looking tired but content, knows she won’t be at a loss for words.