Events offer a chance to take steps towards reconciliation

The University of Ottawa’s Aboriginal Resource Centre (ARC) is hosting its annual Culture Week beginning Sept. 11, followed by an Indigenous Speakers Series starting Sept. 18.

The ARC is a support centre that offers a cultural safe-space, study-space, and resources to help Indigenous students in their studies.

The centre also organizes various cultural events, where Indigenous students can celebrate their culture, while non-Indigenous people learn, experience, and celebrate alongside them.

“People who should be going to this are people who have an interest in reconciliation, since this is a great first step to hear directly … from the people themselves,” said Sébastian Pilon, acting manager of the ARC.

Some highlights from the Culture Week include Tuesday’s beading workshop—intricate beading designs being a large part of Métis and some First Nations cultures—in which non-Indigenous students can learn about and practice creating their own beadwork.

The week also features discussions on the legacy of residential schools, but ends on a proud and celebratory note with First Nations dancers, Métis violinists, and Inuit throat singers performing at the University Centre Agora on Friday, Sept. 15.

“It’s really to permit mainstream individuals to be able to start engaging in a process of reconciliation. A lot of (it) has to be Indigenous-led, but it cannot be solely Indigenous-led—it has to come from both sides,” Pilon said.

The speaker series features speeches concerning the history of several Indigenous groups, and debates their current challenges.

The first speaker is Bruce Uviluq, who will deliver a speech on modern treaties, the history behind treaties, and the current legal practices and government responsibilities, with a special focus on Nunavut.

An event on Sept. 20 will feature a local history lesson delivered by Jaime Koebel, the founder of Indigenous Walks.

“Indigenous Walks is like Haunted Walks, but it doesn’t cover ghosts, it covers the Indigenous legacy still visible and present in Ottawa,” Pilon explained. “You will learn all about the Indigenous facet of Ottawa which is hidden in plain sight.”

An event on Thursday, Sept. 21 will feature Rick Revelle, who will speak about his experiences as an Indigenous author, and share his knowledge on several pre-contact tribes, and Faculty of Law elder-in-residence Claudette Commanda, who will speak on Algonquin history.

With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission being a large part of Canadian discussion recently, the ARC is put in a position where they have more support behind their initiatives, but must also shoulder more responsibility.

“The ARC is looked at as this champion of reconciliation, which puts an enormous weight on us. Reconciliation cannot happen one way, it has to come from both ways,” Pilon said.  

It’s in this spirit that the Culture Week—once reserved mainly for Indigenous students—has in recent years been opened to everyone on campus. Other events like an art show and Inuit luncheon are also planned for October.

Information for both the Cultural Week and the Indigenous Speakers Series can be found on uoCal and the Speakers Series website.