Winter Time is the time of year where the earth becomes covered in snow. It’s a time for rest and reflection. Last winter we rose. We did not rest, we did not reflect. We took to the malls, the streets, and the hills. The community rallied around, there was a desperate feeling, people gathered at teach-ins, the scent of medicines was everywhere. We need to get that energy back. Niigaan: In Conversation asked ourselves, what happened to the fire? The problems are still here, we still have work to do. Let’s get together as a community and talk about our future.
The Evening’s Programme:
- Tickets can be purchased at the Panorama Room of the National Arts Centre beginning at 4:30
- Doors open at 5 – performance by Gerri Trimble with guests, Dinner is served
- 5:30 –Performances by surprise musical guests, Lawrence Martin and Zorga Qaunaq!
- 6 pm. Opening by Barbara Hill, Elaine and Theland Kicknosway
- 6:30 – Introduction and comedy from Ryan McMahon
- 6:30- Red Man Laughing live Podcast
- 8:00 – 8:30 p.m. – Conversation/Q&A
- 8:30 – 9 p.m. – Mosha Folger performance
- 9 p.m. – Live Holiday Auction
- 9:30 – Mingling and DJing and Dancing
It is very important to is that children be made welcome and are included in community events such as this. We will have some skilled childminders to keep an eye on children over 6-years old (contribution requested), so bring your family!
The National Arts Centre will be catering dinner included with ticket purchase. The National Arts Centre will also have a cash bar at the Biskaabiiyang Gala.
Finally, we will be accepting credit card payment, either at the door or for Auction purchases.
Tickets can also be bought here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/niigaan-winter-gala-a-live-red-man-laughing-podcast-tickets-9281807135
Niigaan: In Conversation would be very grateful if you would consider showing your support by participating in the silent auction at our Winter Gala and Live Podcast with Red Man Laughing. Funds raised will go towards developing workshops that respond to community needs and current events, assisting and supporting other grassroots educational initiatives, and organizing three more flagship events in 2014. We also want to continue releasing and distributing our video and audio of past events so that other communities can access and use the material.
We will also expand on the work that we are doing. Right now, we are developing a new project with other partners around concepts of community and culturally-based responses to violence, abuse and missing and murdered women. We also want to work with partners to develop land-based workshops to reconnect people can with their land, teachings and traditions. The silent auction will help us contribute more to our community.
We will share the proceeds of the silent auction with Christi Belcourt’s Walking With Our Sisters project. It has been inspirational to see the wide level of international community support of a grassroots initiative. Christi Belcourt has been a Niigaan supporter from the beginning. She allowed us the use of her artwork in Niigaan posters, our logo comes from her art and she donated piece to the silent auction. The work of the WWOS project also reflects the values of what we have been trying to promote. Particularly what we have seen as a cultural resurgence – the effects of people coming together to learn how to bead and creating the vamps that recognize and honour the women we have lost who are missing or have been murdered. Christi has integrated ceremony and artistic practice to build relationships and community.
Current Auction Items:
Christi Belcourt is a Metis visual artist with a deep respect for the traditions and knowledge of her people. The majority of her work explores and celebrates the beauty of the natural world. Author of Medicines To Help Us (Gabriel Dumont Institute, 2007), Beadwork (Ningwakwe Learning Press, 2010) Christi has won recognition for her fine artistry through numerous exhibitions. Her work has been commissioned by the Gabriel Dumont Institute (Saskatoon), the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Centre for Traditional Knowledge & Museum of Nature (Ottawa), the Indian and Inuit Art Collection (Hull) and is found in the permanent collections of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery and Canadian Museum of Civilization, First People’s Hall. Christi is a past recipient of awards from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Chalmers Family Fund and the Métis Nation of Ontario. She has been studying traditional plants and plant uses for numerous years.
Regarded as a ‘Vanguard’ for his piece 1884/1951 in How Soon Is Now? (Vancouver Art Gallery, 2009), Sonny Assu continues to push the boundaries of contemporary art by challenging the perception of Indigenous art. Assu merges Indigenous iconography with the aesthetics of popular culture to challenge the social and historical values placed upon both. An exploration of his mixed ancestry, his work appropriates or transforms items of consumer and popular culture to trace the lineage of his own personal life. Interested in ideas around Indigenous issues and rights, branding and new technologies, he works across many boundaries and disciplines and in doing so, reveals a ravishing oeuvre that speaks to many. Assu’s work has been featured in several solo and group exhibits over the past years, notably Don’t Stop Me Now! and Comic Relief at the National Gallery of Canada, Beat Nation and How Soon is Now? at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Changing Hands: Art With Reservation Part 2 at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.
His work has been accepted into the National Gallery of Canada, the Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and in various other public and private collections across Canada and the United States.
Sonny is Liǥwildaʼxw of the We Wai Kai First Nation (Cape Mudge). He graduated from the Emily Carr University in 2002. He received the BC Creative Achievement Award in First Nations art in 2011 and was long-listed for the 10th annual Sobey Art Award in 2012. He currently lives and works in Montreal.
Jaime Koebel is a Métis Artist & Indigenous Arts Activator from Lac La Biche, Alberta. Jaime draws images of plant, animal & insect life with ink on animal skins. She also creates fish scale art & is a Métis cultural dancer. In 2009, Jaime was invited on a State visit with former Governor General Michaëlle Jean to Guatemala, Mexico & Costa Rica. Her passion is to educate social, political & cultural issues through Indigenous Art.
Jason Mullins is a member of the Bird Clan from the Cherokee Nation. He was born and raised in the Bronx, New York where his family had relocated from Kentucky in the 1950’s. Surrounded by a family of traditional artists, which included carving, sewing, bead work, painting and the culinary arts, they inspired him to find his own style and express his artistic vision.
Shady Hafez is an Algonquin/Syrian from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg. Born and raised in Ottawa he currently attends Carleton University completing a double major in Canadian Studies and Law with a minor in Indigenous Studies. He specializes in traditional art forms such as beadwork, quillwork, bustle making, regalia making, rawhide paintings and sewing. He is also a mens traditional dancer who travels across Indian country every year competing at Powwows. Shady has also been recognized for his creative writing with his short story “change of the season” having been recognized as one of the top ten stories in the national Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge. Shady’s artistic aspiration is to learn and master traditional art forms so that he may pass them on to younger generations, in that those art forms may not be lost.
Niigaan: In Conversation was started by a conversation. The day we knew that Chief Theresa Spence intended hunger strike was a day much like this one: grey, snow lightly falling, long nights, anticipation in the air. We met with friends to talk about what was happening: chiefs breaking away to march to the Hill, Idle No More teach-ins, setting up camp on the Island, calls for firewood and medicines. We remember songs and drums around the fire, the resonance of a drum beat in a shopping mall, and the scent of sage everywhere. Most of all, we remember the determination to ensure that this time would be the last time people would need to rise up for justice.
In the spirit of that moment, Niigaan: In Conversation was born. We wanted to contribute to our community here by creating a space for people to come together and talk. We knew that this strange city of bureaucracy and federal politics continues an ancient tradition: it acts as a meeting place. Niigaan: In Conversation is really about relationship building, which is another ancient tradition in this land; at every event we always offer food and there is always conversation so that people can talk with each other. Never in our wildest imaginations would we have predicted that over nine months we would develop new and wonderful relationships, organize 12 public events and a handful of private ones, or develop projects with others across Turtle Island.
The way things are now in this country is not working for everyone and it needs to change. Solutions have to emerge from within our own communities if they are going to be sustainable, forward-looking, and long-reaching. We’re not saying that we have the answers to everything, but we are willing to provide the time and space to have the conversation to work this out together.
Who We Are
Niigaan: In Conversation is four volunteers; we are students, parents, business-owners, working artists. It takes a lot of late nights, community support, private donations, partnerships with NGOs and community organizations, and other dedicated volunteers to pull off every event we hold. It takes a lot of commitment to relationship building. Here on unceded Algonquin territory, Niigaan: In Conversation has plans to contribute to the heavy work of unifying our community. We want to develop more workshops that respond to community needs and current events, assist and support other grassroots educational initiatives, and organize three more flagship events. We also want to continue releasing and distributing our video and audio of past events so that other communities can access and use the material.
We also want to expand on the work that we are doing. Right now, we are developing a new project with other partners around concepts of community and culturally-based responses to violence, abuse and missing and murdered women. We also want to work with partners to develop land-based workshops to reconnect people can with their land, teachings and traditions. Our gala fundraiser will help us contribute more to our community.
We have hope for this shared future that we are asking people to recreate together. We can see people coming together to do the very difficult work of listening to each other to strengthen community. We see the language classes and camps, we see examples of traditional government, we see protectors of the land, and we see conversations happening. It isn’t easy work but it is an art – we won’t know what it’s going to look like until we are done. We can use techniques that we know will work, but we also have to be open to trying new things and being innovative in our approaches.
Gchi miigwech Ogichidaakwe Spence; we will not forget your example and leadership. We must remember that Chief Spence’s hunger strike was one of many gifts that we received last winter to inspire us. Her strike and the actions of others – the Nishiyuu Youth, the rallies, the dances, the ceremonies, the prayers, the helpers – all embody our deep desire to make real and lasting change by demonstrating our dedication to and relationship with this land and each other. These actions penetrated us to the core, brought up ancestral memory and propelled us to act.
Now we must internalize that energy. It is our hope that these conversations will turn into relationships, that will turn into ideas, that will turn into actions that every person will take on as their own. There is so much work to do in so many areas; none of us can do it alone.
Niigaan: In Conversation will be there to facilitate, to create the space and time; the rest is up to everyone who joins us in the conversation.
This week, Niigaan: In Conversation is pleased to present a series of essays written by our friends and allies who, through their work, are rebuilding relationships and reenvisioning our future. As part of the planning process behind our upcoming gala, we asked ourselves, what happened to the fire? The community rallied around Chief Spence, there was a desperate feeling, people brought wood, food, soup, medicines, water. We need to get that energy back. The problems are still here, we still have work to do.
For more information about our Biiskaabiiyang Winter Gala in partnership with Red Man Laughing, visit: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/niigaan-winter-gala-a-live-red-man-laughing-podcast-tickets-9281807135?aff=erelexporg
Idle No More Rules For All Eternity Forever and Ever Tapwe and Amen Mahsi cho!
RICHARD VAN CAMP
December 10th, 2012, is where I set aside my mostly worry-free ways and decided to use Social Media (Facebook and Twitter) to face my fear and growing concern of what I was hearing about Canada and where it was headed. I could not believe what I was reading about the Prime Minister of Canada and these omnibus bills that were being proposed. I could not believe that so many scientists were being let go of their jobs. These were the specialists who were trained to monitor the waterways for Canadians. Here was my first social quote: “Mr. Harper, you are now in the way of clean and safe water for all Canadians. It may be the Treaties that save Canada, after all.” It received 57 likes.
I think it’s safe to say many Aboriginal people and Canadians were suddenly realizing that things that seemed unthinkable with the omnibus bills were actually going to happen. Chief Theresa Spence started her 30 day hunger strike on December 11th. As word started to spread online and in newspapers about what the omnibus bills were truly all about, I decided to post this on Facebook on Dec. 15, 2012. It was shared several times and I received 158 likes.
You know what would be awesome? If a human led Skynet sent Elijah Harper into the past to also become the Governor General of Canada and on Monday – eagle feather in his gorgeous Cree hands – he turned to the House and to the world and said, “Traditionally, the Head Man of a Nation received direction from the elders and the mothers of that Nation. Somewhere along the way, this has been lost. It has been said when you break the treaties, you break the law. Before us are these Omnibus bills, which you, Mr. Harper, opposed yourself in the past. What elected leader jeopardizes the water of its Nation for not only this generation but for generations he or she can’t even imagine? Did you not hear the warning that future wars will not be about gold or oil, but they will be about water? Sir, you have given me no choice as I, once again, raise the same eagle feather that I held up at the Meech Lake Accord hearings and say, “No. No to all that you propose right now. Canadians have asked you not to jeopardize the safety of this great nation for your greed and third party interests, and because you did not listen, it came to this: Harper versus Harper and I say, No. May this great Nation continue to grow and prosper and share its abundance with the world in a good way. A ho. I have spoken. Tapwe. The truth has been spoken here.” Now wouldn’t that be cool?”
Again, I received more “likes” and shared posts on Facebook. I think it’s safe to say that many of us were horrified that the first omnibus came to pass. We couldn’t believe it!
On December 16th as word of a grassroots movement titled Idle No More started to grow and rumors of flashmobs across Canada and in different parts of the world started to spread, and as I read more and more about what Prime Minister Harper was wanting to do with Canada, I decided to post the following Facebook post attached to a YouTube link titled “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) – Gandalf Releases Theoden.” I wrote:
Awwwwwwww you know what would be so awesome? It would be so awesome if Elijah Harper was Gandalf and Theodon was Stephen Harper and Gandalf’s staff was his Eagle feather and Elijah smudged Stephen Harper and our Prime Minister woke up and said, “I know your face. Elijah?” And Elijah said, “Breathe the free air again, Brother.” And then Stephen Harper said, “Dark have been my dreams of late.” And then Elijah said, “Your fingers would remember their own strength better if you grasped your pen.” Stephen Harper would remember everything in his heart for living in a good way, and he would realize what he was about to do to Canada and he would say, “NO. NO! We have to stop what’s about to happen with these ridiculous Omnibus bills. Why did I allow opposition only one minute in the House of Commons to state their business? They could really have something to say. Okay, where do I sign to ‘undo’ all I’ve done that would jeopardize our happiness as a great and giving nation? Sign here? Okay. Done! Voila! Thanks, Elijjah. Holy cow, man. That was close. Hai Hai.” Then Stephen and Elijah would go see The Hobbit and they’d be smiling after going “Dude. Dude.” 🙂
Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY9eRkdIeuk
On Dec. 18, 2012, Keavy Martin, my neecheemoos, and I decided to go to our first outside flashmob, which ended up turning into a full-on downtown Edmonton drum dance. I posted, along with his photo:
I saw this young man at the Idle No More gathering in Edmonton on Dec. 10th. I should have asked his name. I hope Canadians know Aboriginal people are not only fighting for our Treaty rights but for water and resource protection across Canada for all Canadians and for all our future generations. This is a terrifying time for Canada and greed seems to be the order of the day. Mahsi cho!
It turns out this was Boppajay Lafleche. I love this picture! Look at the pride in his eyes. What made me so happy about this gathering is there were so many young people there and they were genuinely so mad
about what was happening in our country. I kept thinking, “Prime Minister Harper, we’re willing to fight for Canada. Why aren’t you?” I was also aware that Harper had stirred up the fastest growing demographic in Canada.
On Dec. 21, I was home for my dad’s birthday in Fort Smith, NWT, and I saw our leaders unite with a drum song and a ceremony of “Feeding the Fire” in the middle of town. Many trucks honked as they rode by and there were so many of us dancing together as Fort Smithers for the very first time. This is when it hit me that the federal government had now united Canadians and Aboriginal people: “Praying for Canada at the drum dance in Fort Smith as we honour our ancestors, the land and all future generations #Idlenommore”.
One thing I will always remember is Elder, Mike Beaver, saying that the agreements with the treaties is not with the Prime Minister. These are peace treaties between the Crown and sovereign nations. He’s right. Prime Minister Harper is counting on Canadians not knowing their history and getting Canadians, once again, to blame Aboriginal people for standing in the way of “progress” (ie. Fracking, the Tar Sands, pipelines, etc.)
On Dec. 27th, I wrote:
You know what Idle No More deserves? We need an anthem that unites us all. Take, for example, this incredible song: “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. Holy cow, does the lead singer ever look like Clinton Kathrein! (**a very cool dude that I grew up with) Check it out! And ‘member when Midnight Oil’s “Beds are Burning” came out? Holy cow! That stirred our blood like crazy!
So here’s my call to all musicians: please upload your song and perhaps yours will be the one that is sung all over the world in support of what everyone is trying to do with this revolution. Here’s the link to “Eye of the Tiger” if you want to rock out! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btPJPFnesV4”
On Dec. 30, 2012, I wrote,
Mr. Prime Minister, can you feel the drum thunder of a revolution that you and your leadership have started by underestimating us? Meet with Chief Spence and end this time of international disgrace. It’s time to build a bridge back to a transparent partnership that honours the treaties and our future together. Mahsi cho!
I linked this to the Rage Against the Machine’s song “Guerilla Radio.” I also wrote on that day:
Edmonton, see you at the Idle No More Revolution at 1 pm today at the Alberta Legislature Grounds. The sun is shining. Let us honour Day 20 of Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike. This is a day for all Canadians to join us in a peaceful demonstration saying we’ve had it with a leadership that’s leading a culture of extinguishment for Aboriginal people and unsafe waterways for all of our future generations. Mahsi cho!
At this time, IdleNoMore was in the papers, online, being acknowledged by the Canadian media in press and in news broadcasts, so I started to incorporate more of my Tweets and Facebook posts with their hashtag.
On January 10 (at the U of A Roundance outside), I Tweeted:
See you in the circle! See you at the round dance with our breath rising as one! Every little crow hop is a stand against greed! Our march and drum thunder are growing! Join us! #idlenomore
On January 11th, I Tweeted:
Everyone who’s dancing, marching, singing and praying in this #idlenomore revolution is a
warrior in my eyes. Mahsi cho!
Chief Theresa Spence was our hero and was bringing national shame to the Prime Minister (who was now being openly called “The Crime Minister” because rumors of his participation in automated “Robocalls” that diverted 7, 000 voters to the wrong polling station in Guelph, Ontario, were starting to grow.) Had he won the election illegally? How was any of this possible in Canada? Why wasn’t he fighting for all Canadians? Why wasn’t anyone stopping him? There were so many opportunities for Stephen Harper to address the nation and outline why he was doing what he was doing, but there wasn’t a single one that I remember. In fact, rumors were starting to grow that federal employees had received a gag order and that they were not to speak to the press without authorization.
On January 12th, I had the pleasure and joy of Round Dancing at the West Edmonton Mall in a Flashmob with my neecheemoos, Keavy Martin, and my mom, Rosa Wah-shee, with thousands of other dancers. I wrote:
So this is what a revolution feels like: the scent of sweetgrass blanketing us all; holding an elder’s hand in the Round Dance with my mom and my neecheemoos at my side; children learning about their ancestry and inheritance; Canadians asking how to help; international
and national support; awareness; unity; taking a stand for Mother Earth; the power of our
aunties leading us on. See you in the growing circle! #idlenomore
On January 28, I wrote:
Prime Ministers will come and go, but this paradise called Canada shall remain with all of her gifts and generosity. Let’s protect her for each other and the generations on their way. Mahsi cho. #IdleNoMore
On January 28th, I wrote:
Where will Big Industry be when you can’t trust the water in your taps? Where will the corporations be when loved ones, neighbours and future generations get sick from the water and food around us? Canada is worth protecting. I support the #IdleNoMore Revolution!
On May 18th, I saw how Harper was losing ground in the eyes of so many Canadians and on a national level. I Tweeted:
I don’t want to believe that the prime minister won this election through fraud, but if this is true, why isn’t there a mechanism to impeach him? And if this is true, then I want these omnibus bills to be a fraud and, therefore, illegal, and I want to wake up and know that this was all just such a horrible and sad dream.
Idle No More isn’t just fighting for Canada: it’s about fighting for government transparency–which Stephen Harper promised before he became Prime Minister, and it’s for a public awareness to what exactly third party interests entail for all Canadians. This government is counting on our apathy and our lack of understanding history. The best part of Idle No More is it woke so many of us up and it informed and will continue to inform and inspire us all. See you in the Circle!
Richard Van Camp is a proud member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. He is the author of two children’s books with the Cree artist George Littlechild: A Man Called Raven and What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses? He has published a novel, The Lesser Blessed, which is now a feature film with First Generation Films; his collections of short fiction include Angel Wing Splash Pattern, The Moon of Letting Go and Other Stories, and Godless but Loyal to Heaven. He is the author of three baby books: Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns; Nighty Night: A Bedtime Song for Babies and Little You, and he has two comic books out with the Healthy Aboriginal Network: Kiss Me Deadly and Path of the Warrior. You can visit Richard on Facebook, Twitter or at his website: http://www.richardvancamp.com
This essay appears in The Winter We Danced, published by Arbeiter Ring Press and available spring 2014. Our thanks to the editors for their permission to let us use it. Buy the book!
Niigaan: In Conversation is honoured and excited to partner with Red Man Laughing for its upcoming Winter Gala and Fundraiser at the National Arts Centre on December 10, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario. The theme is Biiskaabiiyang (returning to ourselves) particularly regarding how to move forward in the collective work across the land. Please join us for music, laughter, discussion, dancing and delicious food. The Red Man Laughing Podcast will be a discussion to recreate our shared future. It’s been a year since Chief Spence’s fast and Idle No More. It’s time to regroup, refocus and figure out what we’re doing next. We do this by looking at what we’ve done and what needs to be done and where to go next.
We asked ourselves, what happened to the fire? The community rallied around Chief Spence, there was a desperate feeling, people brought wood, food, soup, medicines, water. We need to get that energy back. The problems are still here, we still have work to do.
We want to hear everyone’s contribution to this discussion;
Please join us to add your voice to this important project.
Our host for the evening is Ryan McMahon, comedian, actor, thinker and Anishinaabe living in Winnipeg. He will be joined by:
- Grand Chief Derek Nepinak (Pine Creek First Nation, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs)
- Chief Isadore Day (Serpent River FN)
- Lee Maracle (author of a number of critically acclaimed, award-winning works)
- Leanne Simpson (author of a number of critically acclaimed, award-winning works)
- Geraldine King (academic extraordinaire and community mover and shaker)
- Celina Matasawagon (astounding inspiration)
- Gerri Trimble (Jazz singer beyond compare)
- Mosha Folger (a.k.a. M.O. hip hop, spoken word master)
- Christi Belcourt
- Sonny Assu
- Jaime Koebel
- Mo McGreavy
- Shady Hafez
- Kelly-Ann Kruger
Wab Kinew, Director of Indigenous Inclusion at the University of Winnipeg, the host of CBC’s 8th Fire and Al Jazeera host, will be joining us to film the discussion between our host and our guests! In partnership with the University of Winnipeg, Niigaan: In Conversation discussion will be used to create teaching materials around the topic of Idle No More. We are so honoured and excited that the University will be supporting our work.