The second annual Màmawi Together: Youth for Reconciliation Day united students from across Ottawa to create their own Reconciliation Legacy Projects. Around 250 youth leaders, in grades 7-12 from Ottawa’s various school systems, gathered for the second annual Màmawi Together: Youth for Reconciliation Day on Feb. 22 at the University of Ottawa.

Members of the Màmawi Together planning and coordinating team

Màmawi Together — “Màmawi” means “Together” in the Algonquin language, in honour of the event being hosted on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin nation — is an Indigenous awareness and education event which reflects the 94 calls to action from the 2015 Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

The event, organized by the Urban Communities Cohortat the Faculty of Education, with support from RSEKN and the University of Ottawa teacher education program, the full-day event seeks to build and sustain respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians through awareness-building and education.

At the opening ceremony, students heard from Elder Jenny Tenasco, who blessed the event and also spoke about difficult truths, including Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples and her experience as a Survivor in the Residential School System.

Anita Tenasco, director of Kitigan Zibi Education Sector, spoke at Màmawi Together’s opening ceremony: “Canada is a richer place because Indigenous peoples are here.” (Photo: Robert J. Ballantyne)
Nicholas Ng-A-Fook, director of teacher education and co-director of Ontario Equity Knowledge Network, spoke at Màmawi Together’s opening ceremony (Photo: Robert J. Ballantyne)

Following the opening ceremony, students engaged in an act of reconciliation through art, reflecting on the approximately 6,000 Indigenous students who died as a result of the Residential School System. As part of Project of Heart, a collaborative art education project, students created reflective reconciliation tiles which were later turned into a commemorative mosaic assembled by University of Ottawa teacher candidates.

University of Ottawa students helped assembled a commemorative mosiac of tiles created by Màmawi Together students in honour of reconciliation. (Photo: Robert J. Ballantyne)

Afterwards, the youth leaders moved into smaller groups to attend workshops. Among the wide-ranging workshops were wampum belt making, introductory Inuit and Métis cultural presentations, and a session on how the Indian Act treats Indigenous peoples as compared to the UN Declaration.

Before and after the workshops, many students said the event had an impact on them.

“I’ve learned that once a person has lost his culture, his sense of identity, it will contribute negatively to his life,” said one student from Hillcrest High School. “How do we rebuild that connection?”

A number of University of Ottawa teacher candidates also attended the event, and many were also moved by the event.

“It’s not just about textbook facts and statistics — there are real [reconciliation] stories you can connect to,” shared teacher candidate Brock Hendry.

Students also developed their own reconciliation legacy projects, consolidating what they learned from the day’s speakers and workshops, and what they can share with others. They will all be coming back to the University of Ottawa to share these legacy projects on April 25.

J.P. Longboat closed the Màmawi Together event with an eagle dance, along with a final prayer by Monique Manatch. (Photo: Robert J. Ballantyne)

Written by Robert J. Ballantyne