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Students work with Algonquin nation to share culture

 Photos by Mico Mazza

FOR A UNIVERSITY in the capital of a country rich in Aboriginal history and culture, it’s surprising that this is the first SFUO-run powwow held at the University of Ottawa.

Held on Tabaret lawn on Sept. 7, it was an especially significant event as the university and the City of Ottawa lie on unceded Algonquin territory, meaning no land treaty was signed when Europeans began settling in the area.

“To have it on almost the only green space on campus is very powerful in terms of being on unceded, un-surrendered territory,” said Nicole Desnoyers, vp equity of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO).

Ensuring that the Algonquin Nation was part of the powwow was important to the Indigenous Students Association (ISA), Indigenous and Canadian Studies Students Association of the University of Ottawa (ICSSA), and the SFUO. They invited the Algonquin nation to lead the grand entry, be the host nation, the host drummers, and the host dancers.

The morning began with a traditional Algonquin opening ceremony, followed by Inuit and Métis cultural demonstrations. The traditional powwow started at noon with the grand entry, followed by drumming and dancing.

There were two host drums, one representing the Algonquin Nation and one representing the Mohawk Nation, each representing different powwow and dance styles.

Over the course of the day, students and community members stopped by to observe and participate in the proceedings. Many of the students wore T-shirts to support the decolonization of the University of Ottawa.

“Anything that you can do to pay respect to the history of the University of Ottawa and of this entire land that we’re on, to the First Nations and other indigenous people who lived on this land historically and currently,” said Brad Lafortune, vp services and communications of the SFUO.

The organizers also hope to reach indigenous students who may be looking to connect with other students with similar cultural backgrounds and find a sense of community on campus.

“A lot of us have left reserves and our communities and come from very far away, so it’s creating that sense of home,” said Kiera Kaia’tanoiron Brant, a representative of the ISA.

Many past events organized by the ISA were focused on giving back to the aboriginal community and creating a sense of home for aboriginal students on campus. The powwow allows them to build on this to create wider visibility on campus.

The event was well attended despite overcast weather, and all organizers hope that the event will become an annual one that grows each year with the participation of indigenous community members and students. f


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