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Celebratory practices

Powwow aerobics, drum circles and more for Aboriginal Peoples Week

Part of a special feature celebrating and recognizing the contribution and impact of Aboriginal Peoples in N.L. and highlighting contemporary topics and opportunities related to Indigenous Peoples worldwide. This theme coincides with Aboriginal Peoples Week 2017: Building Reconciliation taking place at Memorial from March 20-24.


By Mandy Cook

During Aboriginal Peoples Week at Memorial March 20-24, there will be many discussions about building reconciliation, the theme of the week, at Memorial and all of Canada’s post-secondary institutions.

But, in addition to serious examination of how colonial violence still affects Indigenous Peoples in the country’s learning institutions, there will be an exploration and sharing of numerous celebratory Aboriginal cultural practices.

Aboriginal dancers and drummers at the University Centre.
Aboriginal dancers and drummers at the University Centre.
Photo: Deena Riggs

A selection of the events follow below. Be sure to check them out!

Tuesday, March 21

Crafters Katelin King and Jessica Winters will instruct participants in creating a sealskin craft or a dream catcher. Come get your craft on The Landing, UC-3018 from 1-3 p.m.

Also on Tuesday, don’t miss the free screening of the film Koneline for its Newfoundland and Labrador premiere. Directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Nettie Wild, Koneline traces the many different perspectives on the development of the Red Chris Mine in northern British Columbia.

In particular, the film focuses on the perspective of the Tahlton First Nation as its people struggle to come to terms with the implications of mining for Koneline, or “our land beautiful.”

Praised by critics, Koneline has won multiple awards, including Available Light Film Festival 2016 Audience Choice for Best Canadian Documentary, CSC Robert Brooks Award for Best Cinematography (Van Royko), and the Hot Docs 2016 Best Canadian Feature Documentary. The curtain goes up at 3:30 p.m. in IIC-2001, Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation. Everyone is welcome!

Thursday, March 23

The smudge ceremony is a First Nations’ wellness practice whereby small amounts of medicines such as sage, cedar, sweet grass, and/or raw tobacco, are placed in a bowl and lit. The small amount of smoke that arises is then used as a ceremonial wash.

“[Smudging] has been done for thousands of years because it works.” — Edward Allen

Edward Allen, Aboriginal cultural education co-ordinator at Memorial’s Aboriginal Resource Centre, says smudging is the ceremonial enactment of both letting go of the negativity we sometimes carry, as well as the revitalization of our cognizance around the values and strengths that we want to move forward with.

“Because the tacit symbolism contained in the practice is representative of the more common Aboriginal ideals, the practice has transcended across cultures and has been embraced by people of many nations,” he said.

From left are Edward Allen, Sonya Clarke-Casey and Sheila Freake of the Aboriginal Resource Office.
From left are Edward Allen, Sonya Clarke-Casey and Sheila Freake of the Aboriginal Resource Office.
Photo: Chris Hammond

“The smudge allows us to physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepare to do something important. It has been done for thousands of years because it works.”

Although the plants have distinct aromas, the smoke associated with smudging is minimal. Join in from 11:30 a.m.-12 p.m. in The Landing, UC-3018, if you are experienced in the ceremony or if you would like to try it for the first time.

Also on Thursday, a light-hearted game with a serious message, The Price Is Not Right is an interactive game that will create awareness of the high cost of food in remote Aboriginal communities by all players.

Like the television program from which the game takes its name, there will be great prizes to be won! The Price is Not Right gets underway at 1 p.m. in The Landing, UC-3018, University Centre.

Friday, March 24

On the last day of Aboriginal Peoples Week 2017, a drumming circle will take place. Everyone is invited to join in and be part of the circle; there will be drums on hand, provided by Memorial’s Aboriginal Resource Office, if you would like to participate.

Rebecca Sharr, a guest drummer from Eastern Owl Drum Group of the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre and who leads the circle for students every Friday during the fall and winter semester, will lead this event. Come by The Landing, UC-3018, from 12-1 p.m. to make music together.

And from 1-1:30 p.m., powwow aerobics will take place. A new concept for Memorial’s Aboriginal Peoples Week, this is one event you don’t want to miss!

Take direction from Ms. Sharr about how to combine the elements of a powwow with everyone’s favourite ’80s exercise. See you at The Landing, UC-3018.

Happy Aboriginal Peoples Week, everyone!


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