On April 25th 2019, I had the opportunity to attend the 7th annual speaker series Màmawi Together celebration, held at the University of Ottawa in partnership with RSEKN and the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education, as well as others. “Màmawi” means “Together” in the Algonquin language, which is fitting, because the event was held on traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin nation. This event was an evening dedicated to contributing to the journey towards reconciliation through art by Indigenous artists. 

Elder Monique Manatch

At the opening ceremony, we heard from Elder Monique Manatch, who offered an incredible introduction through a beautiful story about the light that resides within all of us. It is this light that connects us all and allows us to recognize the relations between us. The day was about bringing people together and building relationships through art. And indeed, there were many wonderful relations to engage. 

The evening that followed the introduction included so many talented Indigenous artists and performers who did throat singing, dancing, rapping, jigging, and playing the fiddle. We also had the opportunity to listen to Juno award winning Inuk musician Susan Aglukark, who not only offered an incredible performance of her early and new songs, but was also an amazing keynote speaker for the evening. 

An immense amount of time and effort went into making this evening a success, and it definitely showed throughout the celebration. As I sat there, I continuously looked around and saw people clapping along with the music, with huge smiles on their faces. I can say with confidence that the audience was completely engaged and there was definitely a vibrancy in the air.

Reiterated throughout the evening was the Youth for Reconciliation Movement Challenge.  On the Màmawi Together website, it says that “The goal is to raise awareness, increase engagement, and empower positive action in our schools and communities that will bring us closer to real society equity and justice with the Indigenous peoples in Canada … We want our youth, supported by their communities, to be honest, respectful and innovative in their responses to what Reconciliation means to them. It’s up to them to determine how they can have an impact on the healing conversation underway and contribute to a lasting impact where they live.” 

Seeing students from Goulbourn Middle SchoolRidgemont High School, and Hillcrest High Schoolpresented their own creative reconciliation legacy projects and the ways in which they implemented this challenge in their schools was refreshing and motivating, both as a student and a teacher candidate. As a future educator, I could not help but think about how beneficial it would be to bring your students to an event like this, or even better, to get them involved in  the creation of the event and give them opportunities to inspire other students through their reconciliation legacy projects. 

Though there were some unavoidable sad moments throughout the evening, the continuous notion of children being the future and the hope for that future was highlighted throughout, which, as a future educator, was truly inspiring. Young and old, as everyone walked out of the auditorium, it was clear that each person had been moved by the Màmawi Together celebrations.

*All photos taken by Robert J. Ballantyne

Written by: Sidney Pompa-Sidhu