#JUSTICEFORCOLTENBOUSHIE

Illustration by @zola_mtl & zolamtl.tumblr.com

Colten was a 22 year old man who was murdered on Tuesday, August 9. He was out for the day with friends. On the way back home they got a flat tire. They drove down a farmer’s lane to get help. They chose the wrong farm. While sitting in the back of the car Colten was shot by the farmer whose laneway they drove down. In one article I read the farmer’s wife was reported as saying “that’s what you get for trespassing” to the surviving friends.

Last week the farmer, charged with second degree murder, pleaded not guilty and was let out on $10,000 bail.

After Colten’s murder was released in the news social media was full of people posting in support of the farmer, Gerald Stanley.

1 person posted “In my mind his only mistake was leaving 3 witnesses.” That person was Ben Kautz. Kautz is (was) a councillor for Regina. He was not fired for his post that advocated for the death of 3 people. Rather, he “offered to resign” after social media responses to his post put pressure on him. Kautz’s wife was reported as saying My husband removed his comment. I wish we could just leave it at that.

Kautz himself said “It was a stupid thing to say. It wasn’t serious, (but) the damage is done. I’ve got to live with it.”

Why the callousness and such disregard for the lives of these young people as well as lack of grace for what the mourning family, friends and community of Colten’s must be going through? Because Colten was from Red Pheasant First Nation. Colten, as an Indigenous male, was in the wrong place at the wrong time looking for help from a bigot.

Another city councillor was reported saying about Kautz’s comments ““I think everybody says something sometimes that they regret 10 seconds after. I don’t think you’re human if you haven’t.”

Equating hate speech as something we all do? Only people with bad hearts say things like this and don’t consider the weight, the impact and the hurt those words have.

I have been in arguments with people that say Canada isn’t racist. I have had one person concede that that racism is well – “benign racism.” I am not really sure what that means as racism is never benign. Maybe it means that if that person doesn’t have a weapon that the person on the receiving end of the racism won’t be injured or even worse killed, that racism in Canada is different because the gun laws here differ from the States? Maybe Gerald Stanley’s Canadian brand of benign racism might have had different results if he wasn’t holding a gun that he felt justification for shooting because they were on his “property.”

A life has been lost, a community impacted and the other young people with Colten that day have to carry that trauma now throughout their life.

You can share this image (via instagram @zola_mtl) if you are in support of #JusticeForColtenBoushie.

 

 

CANADA DANCE FESTIVAL: #CDF2016 opens at Ottawa’s National Art Centre

World Premiere of REsolve by Circadia Indigena’s Jerry Longboat and Byron Chief-Moon this Sunday at the NAC.

The Canada Dance Festival begins this weekend at the NAC. “CDF 2016 will set the Nation’s Capital alight with challenging new ideas showcased through powerful movement and beautiful movers – all telling uniquely Canadian stories through dance.”

View full schedule here

Sunday’s performance includes the world premiere of REsolve a collaborative work produced by Ottawa-based choreographer Jerry Longboat (www.circadia-indigena.com) and Bryon Chief-Moon. The work is a companion piece to an earlier collaboration Greed “a themed based examination of today’s exploitative stock market system and the effects of crippling corporate and personal greed. This work is a juxtaposition of Traditional Knowledge and values that maintain a living harmony with the natural environment and provides dynamic balance through “taking only what is needed”. The actions and intentions of greed carry over and compound biospheric destruction affecting the living balance of the planet. This work layers First Nations worldviews on the dissonance of agency that strips the resources from our territories and poisons the environment around us.”

REsolve  “layers First Nations worldviews on the dissonance of agency as it addresses issues of de-colonization of self and homeland. Through an awakening of the individual confronting an authoritarian system set on keeping us in a increasingly dependant matrix. Resolve is taking control of your own destiny by exposing the hollow lies from leaders and officials, and challenging our present economic slavery and physiological poisoning. These are transcendent moments of realization and awakening, where one has no choice but to stand up for freedom, and mobilize the ability to act and (self)determine.”

Read more about the work on the NAC website

Photography by Nadya Kwandibens (Red Works Photography)

The Canada Dance Festival runs until June 11.

Each day of the week into the following weekend you can experience the best in Canadian dance – a great way to welcome summer!

Follow along on Twitter:
@CanadaDanceFestival #CDF2016 (English) and #FDC2016 (French)

Like the music? Canada Dance Festival’s video features Ingenue by Bonjay remixed by Ottawa’s Timekode (Dark Disco ReMix)

“NOT MY HERITAGE”: Conversations on New Identities / Voices in Conservation hosted by Carleton University

Saturday, April 23 Carleton University will convene conversations on conservation

Last year I attended an engaging symposium on heritage conservation put on by Carleton University Students. Last year’s theme was Unsettling Heritage. This year the conversation will be focused on New Identities / Voices in Conservation and will pose the questions:

  • Whose heritage are we conserving?
  • Whose heritage is being unrepresented or underrepresented in the heritage conservation discourse of the 21st century?

“This theme aims to critically address missing identities and voices in the heritage field and/or highlight alternative stories and perspectives in heritage conservation.”

“In recent years, the identification and conservation of cultural heritage resources—the built environment, cultural landscapes, or intangible heritage—by heritage professionals, has needed to expand and broaden its understanding of community histories to address the plurality and the multi-narratives that exist in our communities. Events such as: the release of the Final Report on Residential Schools by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Occupy movement, the protests for gender equality rights, the push for youth engagement in civic duties (voting), and the global issue of refugees and immigration, have recently highlighted some of these ignored or unknown identities and voices that exist, and which have been underrepresented or unrepresented in the field of heritage conservation.” Read more…

Online registration closes tomorrow at noon. Tickets will also be available at the venue door Mill Street Brewery, 555 Wellington Street, Ottawa.

View Full Schedule Here

WHERE: Mill Street Brewery, 555 Wellington Street
WHEN: Saturday, April 23 from 9:00 am to 4 pm
COST: $15 Students / $45 General Admission (Online Registration) $20 Students / $50 General Admission (At the Door)

MORE ART & RECONCILIATION AT THE NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE OTTAWA: Going Home Star, Florent Vollant, & 100 Years of Loss Exhibit closes a full month of Indigenous programming

TRC Commissioner Marie Wilson moderates a panel of cultural provocateurs speaking on Art & Reconciliation. 

“It’s time for the rest of Canada to do the heavy lifting” ~ I Lost My Talk composer John Estacio

On Thursday, January 14 the National Arts Centre hosted a panel discussion on ART & RECONCILIATION prior to the opening night of I Lost My Talk, a performance inspired by the poetry of Mi’kmaq elder and poet Rita Joe. The response to this event was tremendous. Hundreds of people swelled up the stairs from the lobby where the 100 Years of Loss exhibit on the impact of Residential Schools is installed until the end of this week. The event also drew political support. In attendance was the Prime Minister’s wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, the Governor General’s wife Sharon Johnston, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde and former Prime Minister The Right Honourable Joe Clark. I Lost My Talk was a commission by Clark’s family for his 75th birthday. A moving and lovely gift that we all got a chance to participate in and benefit from.

Canadian writer Joseph Boyden speaks on his commission to write the libretto for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Going Home Star. 

It’s encouraging to see a National cultural institution take such a leadership role in implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. It’s also poignantly symbolic to have a National cultural institution recognize, in the present moment, a fact that history has tried to obscure. Both the panel and the performance of I Lost My Talk opened with the National Arts Centre acknowledging that “we are on UNCEDED Algonquin territory.”

On the panel, along with Canadian writer Joseph Boyden and John Estacio, the composer for the musical score of I Lost My Talkwas Rachel Maza, “acclaimed Australian theatre director of Jack Charles V The Crown.”  I had the opportunity to attend this incredible play that delved into the impact of assimilation policies on Indigenous people in Australia. Over the course of 75 minutes Jack charmed us with his beautiful way of presenting his biography – a life full of identity confusion and much loss but also an amazing amount of grace due to Jack’s own incredible resilience. I left with many mixed emotions. Find out more about the play…

Jack Charles receives a standing ovation at the closing of his performance of Jack Charles V The Crown at the NAC. 

Going Home Star opens this week in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre.

As this month draws to a close the NAC is hosting Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of Going Home Star. 

“Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation is the brilliant result of a star-studded collaboration between the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, award-winning Canadian author Joseph Boyden, acclaimed choreographer Mark Godden, and renowned Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. Going Home Star was ten years in the making, first envisioned by late Cree elder/activist Mary Richard and RWB Artistic Director André Lewis. Searing and sensitive, this powerfully emotional classical ballet is the deeply resonant love story of Annie and Gordon, a pair of contemporary Aboriginal young people coming to terms with a souldestroying past. Hatzis’s multi-layered score incorporates music by Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq (winner of the 2014 Polaris Music Prize), Steve Wood, and the Northern Cree Singers.” Read more…

The creative team and performers of Going Home Star speak at the NAC about the ballet during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathering in May/June 2015

Going Home Star runs from Thursday, January 28 to Saturday, January 30 and then will continue its tour in Vancouver. Click here for performance dates and tickets. Tickets will be given to Residential School Survivors, more information can be found here.

Also, this weekend at the NAC is Innu author, composer and singer Florent Vollant performing on Saturday, January 30.

“born in Labrador in 1959 and grew up on a reserve named Maliotenam, east of Sept-Îles. He began his musical career in the middle of the 80s and helped to create the Festival Innu Nikamu, which, since its founding, has brought together many musicians and singers from various Amerindian nations.” read more…

And the National Arts Centre has more in store so be sure to follow along with their 2016 programming around Indigenous Storytelling on their website, Facebook  and Twitter @CanadasNAC.

Photography by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

 

JUSTICE FOR FIRST NATIONS KIDS: Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rules in favour of Indigenous Children in Canada

Image from Have a Heart Day 2014 on Parliament Hill, Ottawa with former NDP MP for Ottawa Paul Dewar. 

First Nations Child and Caring Family Society of Canada files complaint and wins after a long battle!

Congratulations to Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations Child and Caring Family Society of Canada. Today is an important moment as the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the Federal Government is guilty of racial discrimination against First Nations, Inuit and Métis children.

On their website, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) has provided the full document of the Tribunal’s decision.

Over and over the federal government, under former prime minister Stephen Harper, tried to stop Blackstock with Department of Justice lawyers doing all they could to have her human rights complaint dismissed.

Each attempt was defeated allowing the complaint to proceed.”  Read full article on APTN

Below is the livestream of the Press Conference following the Tribunal’s announcement with Cindy Blackstock of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations

In the fight for justice for Indigenous children Cindy Blackstock has engaged local youth. Each Valentine’s Day kids arrive on Parliament Hill to give speeches in support of their peers who have been continually denied equitable education. This popular and positive event has leveraged social media and you can find out more by following #HaveAHeartDay on twitter. You can also join this year’s gathering on Wednesday, February 10 from 10:30 – 11:15 am on Parliament Hill.

ART & RECONCILIATION: A Tribe Called Red kicks off an important week of Indigenous Artists at the National Art Centre Ottawa

As the Truth and Reconciliation closes the NAC implements the Calls to Action.

This past Saturday night A Tribe Called Red along with US Girls, Mehdi Cayenne and The Lionyls kicked off what will be an important week at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Following the closing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘s final report releasing Calls to Action that include using institutions of culture to address the stories of First Peoples the NAC has done an amazing job of creating programming, with their Indigenous Storytelling, that answers the call.

Saturday night, due the national and local popularity of A Tribe Called Red, was sold out for the NAC Presents turns 5! event. The NAC basically turned their main foyer into a night club. The effect was brilliant. The NAC definitely knows how to throw a sexy #Decolonize party.

Mehdi Cayenne was also amazing bringing a francophone presence to the event. The importance of the evening was not lost on him and he got the crowd engaged in celebrating the diversity that Canada represents – but a diversity that needs to broaden to recognize First Nations, Inuit and Métis as significant contributors of culture.

Dancer James Jones charmed the crowd during ATCR’s performance combining breakdancing moves with hoop dancing. It was clear from the crowd’s reaction that contemporary Indigenous culture is celebrated and the impact is positive.

If you missed Saturday’s event you can still take advantage of the events the rest of the week. And if you are not in the Ottawa area the Art & Reconciliation Panel Discussion moderated by Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Marie Wilson will be livestreamed at this link here.

TUESDAY – SATURDAY (January 12 – 16 at various times): Jack Charles V The Crown
“Aboriginal. Actor. Addict. Residential School Survivor. Cat Burglar. Homosexual. Jack Charles is an Australian tribal Elder and a living legend. This highly entertaining and autobiographical presentation, which includes a three-piece band, runs the gamut of a life lived to its utmost, spanning Charles’ career as an actor/musician, a lifetime of political activism, and a terrifying descent into heroin addiction and petty crime. His experience as a stolen child echoes the plight of Canada’s own Indigenous people – and his heart-warming presence, generous spirit and unswerving optimism make his journey one of resilience and reconnection. Jack Charles is a theatrical marvel.”

More info…

WEDNESDAY (January 13 from 5:30 – 6:30 pm): Rita Joe National Song Project
“Students from schools in Nova Scotia and Quebec will perform music they created based on Rita Joe’s I Lost My Talk poem.”

Also includes:

  • Mi’kmaq youth from ABMHS High School, Eskasoni, Cape Breton, N.S. 
  • Algonquin youth from Kitigan Zibi Kikinamadinan School, Maniwaki, QC
  • Frances Joe, the daughter of poet Rita Joe
  • Moe Clark, Host and Multi Media Métis Artist
  • Alexander Shelley, Music Director of the NAC Orchestra
  • Annie Smith St-Georges, Algonquin Elder
  • Jessica Bolduc, 4R’s Youth Movement
THURSDAY (January 14 at 6:30 pm) : Art & Reconciliation FREE & LIVESTREAM!
A timely panel discussion on art in the context of reconciliation moderated by Dr. Wilson, Commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and featuring panelists Rachael Maza, acclaimed Australian theatre director of Jack Charles V The Crown, Joseph Boyden, author of the award-winning novels Three Day Road and The Orenda, and composer John Estacio. The panel discussion will be introduced by the Right Honourable Joe Clark. The event will be live streamed at nac-cna.ca/live. Guests to attend the event include Their Excellencies David Johnston the Governor General of Canada and his wife Sharon Johnston, Mrs. Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, and National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations.

THURSDAY – FRIDAY (January 14 – 15, 8 pm & 7 pm): I Lost My Talk
“World premiere of I Lost My Talk, composed by John Estacio and performed in Southam Hall by the NAC Orchestra under the direction of NAC Music Director Alexander Shelley. This immersive, multidisciplinary work – based on the poem by the late Mi’kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe – was commissioned for the NAC Orchestra to commemorate the 75th birthday of The Right Hon. Joe Clark by his family, and features an extraordinary film produced by Barbara Willis Sweete.”

Performing in the film is the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.

More info…

Legacy of Hope exhibit looks the impact of the Residential Schools opens tomorrow at the National Arts Centre

And finally from now until the end of the month the exhibit 100 YEARS OF LOSS: The Residential School System in Canada will be available for viewing from 2 pm onwards each day.

“This bilingual exhibition, created by The Legacy of Hope Foundation, raises awareness and understanding of the history and legacies of the Residential School System in Canada. Through archival photographs and documents, first-person testimonies, and evocative works of art, the exhibition encourages us to learn about this difficult history, to recognize its legacies in our country today, and to contribute our own acts of reconciliation.

More info…

Images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

 

NATIONAL ABORIGINAL DAY: Celebrating women who are making a difference for Mixed Bag Mag’s coverage of the TRC

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Walk for Reconciliation Ottawa, Rideau Hall Ceremony for Survivors and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

There is always that one little girl, at whatever march or demonstration I am attending, that grabs my attention. I begin to follow along to her skips and steps in an effort to come close to the lightness she contains in her little being. She is at once a promise but also a ghost of all the other little spirits who came before her, with similar promise, but who didn’t make it.

It’s been a few weeks now since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had their final series of events here in Ottawa closing the process of investigating and documenting the Residential School experience on generations of Indigenous children in Canada. Much has been written and said about the TRC. As I attended the events each day I came to the realization that what I witnessing was going to best be expressed without the use of words so here I deliver a message through the images of women. Throughout the four days I ran into many friends and made some new ones. One thing was clear, that despite the heaviness of what we were participating in, there was a lightness contained inside each of the women who you see here and that lightness will continue on as a promise for a different type of tomorrow.

Below are women, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who are putting their energies into ensuring this country will be accountable to the children lost and to the children yet to arrive.

All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

OTTAWA THIS WEEKEND IN SOLIDARITY: May 30 #BlackLivesMatter & May 31 TRC Walk for Reconciliation

SATURDAY MAY 30th #BlackLivesMatter Ottawa March

WHEN: 5 pm
WHERE: Meet at the U.S.Embassy 490 Sussex Drive & walk to the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street

“BlakCollectiv invites you to join us in our Black Lives Matter March. We will be meeting at 5:00pm in front of the U.S. Embassy, 490 Sussex Dr. on May 30th 2015. We will be marching in remembrance of the Black lives lost to police brutality, including cis and trans black women.

We would like everyone to join us in this march to shed light to the issues that our communities are currently facing, and to let the world know that we will not be silent!

This is a peaceful protest so feel free to bring your own posters, family and friends to support. However , we do ask that any organizations that attend to please refrain from using this march as a promotional opportunity. This march is meant for healing and remembering the lives lost, do not come with intentions to disrespect this message.

Allyship: an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person of privilege seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group of people. Allyship is not an identity—it is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people.”

More info on ways you can help or donate here.

#BlackLivesMatter

SUNDAY MAY 31th Truth and Reconciliation Commission “Walk for Reconciliation”

WHEN: 11 am program begins & 12 pm starts
WHERE: The Walk will start from École secondaire de l’Île, 255 rue Saint-Rédempteur Street in Gatineau (next to the Robert Guertin Arena, where there will be parking) and the walk will end at The Walk will end at Marion Dewar Plaza (Ottawa CIty Hall), 110 Laurier Ave. West.

SHUTTLE BUSES FROM TORONTO & MONTREAL: Round trip buses for youth depart from downtown Toronto @ 6:00 am & Montreal @ 8:00 am and will depart home for Toronto & Montreal @ 6PM

We invite youth to confirm your space contact:
trcwalk2015@canadianroots.ca or bolduc.jessica@gmail.com

“The Walk for Reconciliation is designed to transform and renew the very essence of relationships among Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians. It sounds so simple, but just the act of gathering and walking and sharing our stories can join us all in a shared commitment to creating a new way forward in our relationships with each other. Our future depends on being able to simply get along, respecting each other for the unique gifts we bring.

On May 31, we will walk together in Ottawa to express our determination in rebuilding the relationships among Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians. Join Us.”

More info on the Facebook Event Page and the Truth & Reconciliation Commission website.

#2Reconcile

SEWING CIRCLES & SOUNDSUITS: The Art in Embassies initiative connects social nexuses in Ottawa

Marie Watt’s sewing circle and Nick Cave’s SoundSuits provide ways to start discussions around challenging issues. 

As our long winter was on it’s way out and a new spring beginning an interesting initiative began here in Ottawa. Vicki Heyman, wife of US Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, launched Art in Embassies, a project started by John F. Kennedy as way to share the talent of American artists abroad as well as “start cross-cultural dialogue“.

Maria Watt was the American artist chosen to open what has become a series of events focused on the role of art as a catalyst for social change. The timing seemed oddly predestined. Marie, a woman of mixed Settler / Indigenous heritage sat on the stage at the National Gallery of Canada speaking to Greg Hill (the NGC’s Audain Curator of Indigenous Art) about the connecting quality of her work.

“My work draws from my experience as a Scottish German Seneca person in the US growing up in Oregon…[I explore] Indigenous moments in history and European history – those nexuses.”  

This was on the eve of the Roundtable Discussion on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that was also taking place in Ottawa that week. On the Friday, as Carleton University was hosting the National Roundtable, the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG), in collaboration with Art in Embassies, was holding a roundtable on Indigenizing the Gallery with Marie as the honoured guest participant. If a nexus “is a series of connections linking two more more things” than what was happening at that precise moment in Ottawa, in the social spaces where art, academia and politics converge, was a moment where Indigenous women’s voices were being prioritized.

One of Marie’s well known works is Blanket Stories: Seven Generations, Adawe, and Hearth. The piece was installed during the National Gallery of Canada’s Sakahàn: Indigenous International Art exhibit and true to Marie’s practice it involved sending a call out to participate. A request was made for anyone who wanted to contribute to drop off or mail out a wool or natural fiber blanket to the NGC. The original call out on the Sakàhan website describes how the installation:

“will highlight the rich history of commerce and trade in Ottawa. The word “Ottawa” comes from the Algonquin word adawe, which means “to trade.”

Along with their blankets participants were requested to write a story that illustrated the importance of that blanket to their family. The stories become the currency and their richness is revealed in their ability to criss-cross countries and cultures, span many generations and fuse past with present. With her works involving blankets Marie does what she can to have the stories available for audiences to read (view some of stories from the NGC install here). At her National Gallery talk she related a few of them to us. One story was Peter’s. The blanket he gave to Marie came from a concentration camp. If I remember correctly, it was his wife’s and it was all she had when she was liberated from the camp. Eventually that same blanket would be used to wrap and protect art work purchased by the couple in the life they created together. Marie feels that such a story flies in the face of Hitler’s denigration of art and is a perfect symbol of reclamation – a blanket’s meaning transformed by its new role.

The stories are also ways for people to enter into the intimate space of another. In this complex historical moment where we struggle to understand the meaning of words like reclamation and reconciliation sometimes the way of navigating that complexity is through the simple act of creating a space for people to share moments. This is the strength of the Art in Embassies initiative which has been infused by Vicki’s desire to explore art as social practice precisely because it can build bridges and foster understanding between disparate social circles. As a way of gathering a diverse group together for a common goal, another event that was held as part of Marie’s visit to Ottawa was a sewing circle. It was moving to see people of all backgrounds, ages, and genders stitching together in the Great Hall at the National Gallery. And the artist was present! Marie took the time to speak with people as well as listen to new stories being shared. For Marie, it’s about being affable in her process. As she says, a sewing circle is about “tucking yourself into something as humble and familiar as cloth. It’s a safe space that’s a much more informal space – getting together in a neighbourly way.”


In these informal spaces people can digest what they might otherwise feel challenged to confront. Marie’s work, although not overtly political, is charged by a political climate that does it best to ignore Indigenous rights and a national leader who publicly declared that the issue of #MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) as not “really high on our radar.” As a Seneca woman she uses her art as a way to generously share Indigenous teachings to a non-Indigenous audience.

The next artist speaking as part of the series is Nick Cave. Nick’s work is also about looking at social as well as disciplinary nexuses of art, dance and fashion. Like Marie, he uses the act of sewing and assemblage to move a challenging conversation forward. The intense subject of racial profiling prompted Nick to look at ways we disregard and denigrate. His first “soundsuit” was created by gathering discarded sticks and twigs, the things that surround us during our day that we ignore and allow to become invisible. The final product functioned as both apparel to be worn by a dancer during a performance and sculpture to be inserted into a gallery space. Whether still or animated by performers whose race and class are concealed inside the soundsuits, Nick’s work is meant to break open a space. They are impossible to ignore. As performers climb inside they have a chance to access the feeling of being connected with something seemingly foreign from their everyday but yet some of the materials that Nick utilizes, like Marie’s blankets, are humble ones that are familiar to all.

Again, the timing of this event is important. After months and months of the heaviness of how racial profiling is being executed – literally – by agents of power, we need to widen the discussion around race that has been split open by the murders of black men at the hands of the police. The problematics of race isn’t just an American issue. Here in Canada the erasure of Black bodies in cultural, academic and political institutions has the potential to fester and become a much deeper problem. We need to have the challenging conversations immediately and those conversations have to happen in places like the National Gallery of Canada, an institution where Black contribution to Canadian history and art has been close to absent. No time like the present.

I applaud the audacious spirit that Vicki has brought to the cultural table here in Ottawa and I look forward to participating in more of these types events that create a nexus for change by widening the circle of social influence.

You can follow the conversation at #artconvoAIE. More events will be coming up in 2015!

All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

WHAT’S IN A NAME: We Are Cities round table sparks discussion on ways to Decolonize & Indigenize Ottawa

Evergreen Cityworks campaign gets Canada talking about city building.

Since April a dialogue on city building has been quickly connecting cities across the nation. The goal, utilizing data collected from round tables hosted in urban centres, is to “build a vision and action plan to make Canadian cities healthy and exciting places to live, work and play.” I got involved because I believe in the power of gathering in small circles. When we come together with a spirit of openness ready to dream about a different kind of future anything becomes possible.

Often the discussion of city building revolves around practical issues like infrastructure and public transportation. My goal, in convening several intimate round table conversations in Ottawa for the #WeAreCities campaign, was to expand the discussion to consider what it means to build cities that offer respectful, safe and celebratory places for everyone.

“Create a big vision for  your city and tell us about it” was one of the exercises each group was given. The round table at Carleton University Art Gallery was stacked with PhD students from Cultural Mediations all working in the space of decolonization / indigenization so naturally the visions encompassed ways to nurture a vibrant Indigenous presence in Ottawa. This city has a large urban Aboriginal community and for many the presence of First Nations, Inuit and Metis leaders gathering in Ottawa to work in law, policy, and culture gives the city a richer  dimension. The round table also included PhD student Kanatase Horn (PhD Candidate in Legal Studies) along with Wahsontiio Cross (PhD Candidate in Cultural Mediations). Their vision was to have Ottawa renamed by the Algonquin people from this area. Here Kanatase reflects further on what that vision could mean.

Change the name change the relationship

“Decolonizing and Indigenizing urban spaces is often met with a certain amount of resistance. In a country that has a difficult time balancing individual rights while simultaneously ‘celebrating’ pluralism, it’s to be expected. The atmosphere is tense to say the least. However, this tension should not prevent us from exploring the possibility of decolonizing urban spaces, since considering Canada’s history of colonization, as well as ongoing settler colonial processes of assimilation and erasure, Canada needs to change. Urban spaces provide fundamental locations for that change.

When Indigenous people move to urban areas from their home communities, they usually face economic and social oppression, racism, and increased exposure to police, as well as the criminal justice system as a whole. Rather than the consequence of individual choices however, such negative experiences should be understood as the result of larger structural realities anchored in settler colonialism. And this is why Decolonizing and Indigenizing the urban space, especially in the Nation’s Capital, is important to support and be a part of if you desire to live in a just society for all.

Simply put, these types of actions can initiate the changes necessary to turn Canada from a settler colonial society into a genuine post-colonial nation. It should not, however, be seen as a project that is inherently political. Instead, it should be seen as a project that takes place at every level of society, where there is room and space for everyone to participate. One example of an action with deep symbolic meaning would be the changing of the name of the city of Ottawa to an Algonquin word chosen by the Algonquin people from the unceded territory that Ottawa is located on. Such an action could initiate the kind of social and cultural changes that would make urban spaces more welcoming spaces for Indigenous people as well as Non-Indigenous people since the act of Decolonizing and Indigenizing does not mean prioritizing Indigenous people over others. These types of actions mean placing priority on relationships with each other and the land.

Decolonizing and Indigenizing urban spaces like Ottawa means recognizing that we exist on the land together – land that is the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. While changing the name would be a symbolic gesture, its potential for social and cultural transformation in the hearts and minds of citizens is huge! It would mean going back and trying to adjust our lives so that it reflects the vision that Indigenous people held when they invited settlers to live on their lands with them. This is not about producing exclusions or apartheid like living conditions. Rather, it means living on the land, even in an urban space, in such a way that our traditional hosts would deem appropriate and respectful to all of those around us.”

Is this even possible?

Name changing may seem like a complicated, seemingly impossible task but my co-facilitator Manjit Basi of Citizens Academy was quick to point that India went through it’s own process of name changing that started early in the pre-colonial era after independence. In 1956 the state of Travancore-Cochin was changed to Kerala and then more recently Bombay to Mumbai (1995), Calcutta to Kolkata (2001) and Mysore to Mysuru (2014) proving it can be done without unravelling a country.

There is no reason that we can’t do the same and the participants of this We Are Cities’ round table have proposed an action that could create a lasting legacy that speaks to reconciliation.

Mixed Bag Mag would like to thank Carleton University Art Gallery for providing the space for us to convene. Thanks to Citizens Academy for co-facilitation support and materials. Thanks to poet Jamaal Jackson (Just Jamaal) for closing our session in one of the most beautiful ways – a poem. (read here)

And finally thanks to all the participants for your thoughtful contributions.

More about We Are Cities at www.wearecities.ca and follow on twitter at #WeAreCities.

Want to host your own round table in your city? Find out how here!

All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.