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Harvest feast focuses on building community and learning about indigenous culture

Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and staff alike, got together On Oct. 5 to enjoy a hearty thanksgiving-style meal influenced by the original Indigenous cuisine in the relaxing atmosphere of Mamidosewin Centre in the Student Commons.

Elder Barbara Dumont-Hill opened the event with a welcoming speech and ceremonial prayer that reflected on the first Thanksgiving, the past hardships of Indigenous peoples, empowering Indigenous youth and preventing history from repeating itself.

Harvest feasts take place at Mamidosewin Centre on the first Thursday of each month. Also called family feasts, the purpose of the feast is to establish a sense of community with fellow peers and be grateful since gratefulness plays a large role in Indigenous traditions.

“It’s the way that we are as a people and a lot of it has to do with Thanksgiving all the time,” said Louise Lahache, coordinator of Algonquin’s aboriginal studies program.

“If an animal gives its life so that we can feed our people we thank the spirit of the animal for offering themselves to feed us,” explained Lahache. “We have those kinds of relationships with the plant world, we have those kinds of relationships with the animal world so it’s a time of freshness and that’s what it’s about.”

According to Lahache, events like the harvest feasts at Mamidosewin help strengthen the sense of community among Indigenous students, especially those who’ve relocated to Ottawa for college, and provides a safe place for students to be themselves.

“You don’t have to defend your culture here or you don’t have to defend who you are,” said Lahache about the centre and its events. “Here is a safe place where you can feel welcome all the time and it is, it’s a very lively place and there’s lots of life here.”

The origins of the holiday now known as Thanksgiving originated from Indigenous cultures. Squash, turkey, corn, pumpkin, potatoes and cranberries – typical thanksgiving food staples – are all Indigenous to the Americas and at the time of the first thanksgiving, didn’t exist in Europe.

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