Yesterday, McGill’s 10th annual Indigenous Awareness Weeks (IAW) opened with beautiful music and words of gratitude. IAW will run until September 24 in a completely virtual format, with new videos being uploaded daily on the IAW webpage.
Fittingly, IAW opened with the Words That Come Before All Things, delivered by Otsi’tsaken:ra (Charlie) Patton, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Elder from Kahnawa:ke. Speaking in Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk), Patton talked of the importance of acknowledging our gratitude to the world of which we are part.
“The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people (our elders) have taught us that, whenever people gather for any occasion, the first thing that we acknowledge are the forces that have given us life at this time and continue to support us into the future. This ceremony has been done since the beginning of time and its purpose is to remind all those listening to never forget to be thankful for all that is in place to help us accomplish the work at hand using a good mind,” said Patton.
“So, with this in mind, we use these ‘words that come before all things’ and turn our greetings to all of the natural world. We put our minds together as one as we offer greetings to our Creator, because all is put before us on the Earth and in the Universe,” he said. “We gather today and bring our minds together as one to give greetings and thanksgiving to all the people of the world because we can see that the cycles of life continue.”
The English translation of Words That Come Before All Things can be found here.
Inspiring feelings of belonging, hope and pride
In his welcome message, Provost Christopher Manfredi told people how this year’s IAW program coincides with McGill’s Bicentennial year which includes an Indigenous program based on the theme: Celebrating Indigenous Resilience and Excellence: Past, Present and Future.
“This theme was suggested by members of McGill’s Indigenous community and seeks to inspire respect, understanding and solidarity in the non-Indigenous community. It was chosen to evoke feelings of belonging, hope and pride with the Indigenous students, faculty and staff at McGill,” said the Provost.
“Indigenous Awareness Weeks give the McGill community an opportunity to celebrate, share and deepen our understanding of Indigenous culture and realities,” said Manfredi. “The events create a space for awareness-building and learning. Each year invited guests include Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Holders, artists as well as academics and students.”
The Opening Ceremony ended with a pair of musical performances.
Beatrice Deer sang the beautiful Takugiursugit (The First Time I Saw You). Deer is an Inuk singer born in Quaqtaq, Nunavik. Her debut album, Just Bea, won a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Inuit/Cultural Album.
Finally, Craig Commanda performed the touching acoustic piece For the Children, dedicated “to the spirits of the children lost to residential schools.” Commanda is an Anishinabe musician and filmmaker from Kitigan Zibi First Nation.
Missed IAW’s Opening Ceremony – or any other IAW event? Check out the IAW webpage daily for new videos.