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.

WE ARE CITIES: Mixed Bag Mag partners up with Citizens Academy to host a round table on city building in Ottawa

Leah Snyder of MIXED BAG MAG and Manjit Basi, founder of CITIZENS ACADEMY, are partnering to host a We Are Cities Round Table.

As the Nation’s capital, Ottawa has a unique cultural position and plays a significant role in determining the direction Canada will take on many important issues regarding the environment and human rights. Located on traditional Algonquin territory, the city has an active First Nations, Inuit and Métis community as well as a growing immigrant community; a large Francophone population with the province of Quebec just minutes away adds another element to the cultural milieu. Often labelled as a city of bureaucrats, in reality Ottawa has a thriving arts community that includes not only National institutions but a vibrant independent arts scene.

All of the above makes for an interesting dynamic and fertile ground to create big shifts especially around what deep diversity looks like in an urban context.

We would love your contribution to the conversation on city/community building in Ottawa. Please join us!
WHEN: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 5:30 – 8 pm
WHERE: Carleton University Art Gallery
1125 Colonel By Drive (St. Patricks Building)
For visitor parking information click here.

About We Are Cities:

“With your help we will build a vision and action plan to make Canadian cities healthy and exciting places to live, work and play. The campaign will bring peoples’ ideas together and build on the city-focused initiatives that are already taking place across the country. We Are Cities will help connect existing city-building work in order to strengthen and mobilize our collective efforts to enable the change we need. We Are Cities was launched by a number of organizations that believe that a prosperous future for Canada depends on thriving cities. For cities to succeed, citizens need to take an active role in identifying a path forward to achieve resilience, prosperity and inclusivity.” Find out more on www.wearecities.ca and follow at #WeAreCities.

Thank you to Carleton University Art Gallery for providing the space and also to Citizens Academy for their assistance in hosting this event.

KICKSTART THE MONTH OF MAY: Contact Opens, Jane’s Walks’ Weekend & the NAC Features “huff”

How one woman changed a community then went on to change the world.

So much of the way we think and act around neighbourhood, community and city building in the 21st Century is because of the ideas of a single woman – Jane Jacobs. If you need an example of how one human being can have huge impact, Jane is that inspiring person who walked her talk and went on to inspire an international movement. Her ideas of what a community should be resonated with many because it articulated what people already knew to be true as to why certain spaces become thriving communities.

Every year, to honour Jane’s legacy, cities world-wide hosts walks that allow people to discover some brilliant nuance of the place where they live that they may never have discovered otherwise. All of this is possible due to the thousands of volunteers who get out into their community and share their knowledge during Jane’s Walks.

I just discovered the above video highlighting a great walk I participated in a few years back. This walk, that featured the work of Toronto’s many street artists, had us meandering through the downtown core via the back alleys where a technicolour world awaited us. The tour was given by Jason of the Tour Guys, an organization in Toronto that specializes in giving offbeat tours of one of North America’s most interesting cities.

Women who are Indigenizing city spaces.

This year, in both Toronto and Ottawa, walks will be given that highlight the history of Indigenous Peoples.

Toronto’s Jane’s Walks’ lineup includes The Steps of Old Lake Iroquois.

“This walk will explore historic land use along Davenport Rd and the lands along the ridge while providing excellent views of the city. How did First Nations people get around? Who were some of the early movers and shakers? What was the origin of Wychwood Park?”

In Ottawa there is a newly launched initiative, Indigenous Walks, and IW’s tour guide, local Metis artist and educator Jaime Koebel, will be sharing her knowledge and passion for Indigenous history on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm each day. Jaime uses the experience of sight-seeing the beautiful monuments in the Capital city to allow people to experience the history of Ottawa, as well as the history of Canada, by walking in the shoes (or moccasins) of an Indigenous person. The tour starts at the Human Rights Monument at City Hall. More info can be found here. 

And speaking of Indigenizing public spaces, artist Dana Claxton’s (Lakota) “Indian Candy” is part of CONTACT, Toronto’s annual festival celebrating the art of photography.

Each year CONTACT commissions work to be put up on billboards around the downtown core, activating what is normally a space reserved for spreading  a message of commerce to instead spread messages on social issues.

Dana’s work  “interrogates the presentation of Indigenous iconography through the digital archive in Indian Candy.

Working from found images of the “Wild West” sourced online, the artist focuses on those connected to Sitting Bull, the iconic tribal leader who led a resistance against government policies in the United States. As a descendant of Sitting Bull’s band who came to Canada, Claxton simultaneously mines her own personal family history and the legacy of racism. Her diverse range of images present aspects of Indigeneity in a new light; from the buffalo, which represents spirituality for Lakota people and was a main source of sustenance until their near annihilation, to signed souvenir cards from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. As a whole, Indian Candy uncovers truths and performs as a provisional archive of Aboriginal imagery seen through the lens of colonialism.” 

For the month of May you will be able to see Dana’s billboards along Dundas St. West. For more information on the exhibit as well as a map click here.

Also part of CONTACT, some of MIXED BAG MAG’s favourite people, projects and art spaces!

THE POWER PLANT WITH
WEDGE CURATORIAL

Pictures from Paradise: A Survey of Contemporary Caribbean Photography
More info…
Opening Party Tomorrow!


THE GLADSTONE HOTEL WITH MANIFESTO
40 Years of Hip Hop Photography
More info…
Opening Party Tonight! 


MOCCA WITH MERYL MCMASTER:

Material Self: Performing the Other Within
More info…
Opening Party Tonight! 

And another favourite MIXED BAG MAG space for the arts, this time in Ottawa, is The National Arts Centre. This week “huff” has opened at the NAC and runs through until May 10. This provocative work has left everyone I know who has experienced it, changed. It’s not a piece of theatre that is easily digestible but despite the heavy subject matter, substance abuse among First Nations’ youth, people seem to walk away feeling that the experience of being uncomfortable witnessing Cliff Cardinal’s one man show was a positive one that includes a message of hope!

For more information on ‘huff’ visit the National Arts Centre website.

FYI – $12 Student Rush Tickets available here!

 

For more information on the Scotiabank CONTACT Festival visit their website,

For more information on Jane’s Walks visit the Toronto and Ottawa full schedule links below:

Jane’s Walk’s Toronto Schedule

 

 

Jane’s Walk Ottawa Schedule

 

FYI-  Be a part of the Samba Launch Party Procession Tonight at 6 pm. MIXED BAG MAG’ fave Zahra Ebrahim of archiTEXT will be one of the procession leaders of this walk that is all about PLAY! Details here.

WISHING EVERYONE A WEEKEND WHERE YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW & HAVE FUN!

All above images of Jane’s Walk 2011 (Graffiti Tour & Samba Procession) by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

 

FAIR TRADE: Timeraiser Event in Ottawa @ The Canadian War Museum

Trading Art for Volunteer Hours

TIMERAISER is an initiative that began in Toronto by Anil Patel, a community activator who believes that we all can improve our “civic footprint”!

Tomorrow night (Saturday, November 23), if you are in Ottawa, you can take part in a Timeraiser Event.

WHEN: 7 pm
WHERE: Canadian Museum of War, 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa, K1A 0M8
HOW MUCH: $20 (purchase tickets here!)

“Speed dating for Volunteers”

“Timeraiser is a volunteer matching fair, a silent art auction, and a night out on the town. The big Timeraiser twist is rather than bid money on artwork, participants bid volunteer hours.


Throughout the evening, participants meet with various non-profit organizations in the room to find available volunteer opportunities that meet their needs. Once matches are made, the bidding can begin. Winning bidders have 12 months to complete their pledge in order to bring the artwork home as a reminder of their goodwill”

Find out more about Timeraiser on their website, Facebook Page and follow along on Twitter @Timeraiser.