By Neale McDevitt
For many McGillians, their only contact with Aboriginal cultures comes once a year with the annual Pow-wow on lower campus. And while the Pow-wow certainly is an important event on the University calendar, it begs the question, how much can you really know about a people if you only meet them once a year?
The people at McGill’s First Peoples’ House, in conjunction with the Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF), hope to rectify the situation with the Sept. 12 launch of the University’s first annual Aboriginal Awareness Week.
“We have a full schedule of activities,” said Allan Vicaire, Project Coordinator of the Aboriginal Sustainability Project, “with the goal to enhance the visibility and presence of Aboriginal peoples in the McGill and Montreal community through educational and cultural activities.”
The week will give non-aboriginal participants the opportunity to learn about the cultures and traditions of Aboriginal peoples. Events will include spoken word, panel discussions, traditional singing, a film night, a stone carving workshop and various lectures, including one on two-spiritedness.
Some of the events will take place on campus, including broadcast journalist Waubgeshig Issac Rice reading from his first novel, Midnight Sweat Lodge, at the McGill Bookstore. Others, including the free admission to the Botanical Garden’s First Nations’ Garden and the community social at Montreal’s Native Friendship Centre, will take place off University grounds.
The week will culminate with the First Peoples’ House annual pow wow on Sept. 16 on Lower Campus.
Planting long-term seeds
Following Awareness Week and the Pow-wow, the people at First Peoples’ House hope to keep the momentum going with a series of monthly events running throughout the academic year. Films, lectures, discussion panels, workshops, academic projects and cultural activities pertaining to Aboriginal themes and topics will be offered until the end of April.
While organizers are hoping the program of ongoing events will help sensitize the McGill community to the cultural values of its aboriginal colleagues, they are also working on getting young students to think about their academic future. “We have an education day in which we invite local students from area high schools on and off the reserve to McGill,” said Kakwiranó:ron Cook, Aboriginal Community Outreach Coordinator. “Hopefully we can plant some seeds in their minds to think about university in the long-term.”
Aboriginal Awareness Week runs Sept. 12-15. All events are free and open to everyone. For more information about the schedule of events go to www.mcgill.ca/fph/events/.