Even the first snowfall of the year couldn’t stop the Indigenous Learner’s Celebration. In fact, the snow was welcomed. “How great is it that we have our first snowfall on a special day like today,” said Algonquin College president Cheryl Jensen.
And indeed it was.
Following the renovation of C-building and the creation of the Institute for Indigenous Entrepreneurship, the Mamidosewin Centre hosted a celebration.
The event had two parts, the first being held in the Courtyard.
The Courtyard had a teepee erected and featured speeches from Algonquin faculty and Elders of the Aboriginal community.
A highlight of the event was the first sacred fire being lit on campus.
“This fire gives us warmth, a way of how Algonquin will take care of each other,” says Jensen. “A way to spark new things at Algonquin, We are setting new territory. It’s for you and it’s by you”.
Elder Peter Decontie led in prayer before starting the fire. He also made a smudging bowl prior to lighting the fire, which involves the burning of one or more medicines that come from the earth. The purpose of smudging allows people to cleanse themselves.
Decontie invited others at the ceremony to come up and get smudged if they wanted to. Over 30 people happily participated.
After lighting the fire, Decontie offered tobacco for people in attendance to throw in the fire and send a prayer to the spirit world.
“This is a good day,” said Elder Barbara Hill. “A beginning of change. New fires to be built in each one of you. So many good things, we’re not going to waste it.”
The second part of the celebration was brought into the library.
Ron McLester, the Executive Director and Special Advisor on Aboriginal Initiatives, talked about the importance of the institute and what it means for Aboriginal students.
“Our future is bright and it’s bright because of you,” says McLester.
He also encouraged the people in attendance to fill out a survey on feedback on what they want the Institute to be like.
He discussed how entrepreneurship doesn’t mean the traditional definition in Native culture. He says that entrepreneurship isn’t about getting people to help you individually and making yourself grow, but is for a group initiative, which is what Indigeneity is about.
There was then a drum circle with men’s traditional dancer Ben Wawatie.
Next, there was a round dance led by the Ottawa River Singers, who had a good majority of all who attended dance with them.
Guest speaker Blair Amyotte, who is best known for being a DJ at Hot 89.9 and Live 88.5, spoke about how proud he was of Algonquin’s Indigenous Institute. “I dare you to find a more beautiful space than this space in this college,” he said.
Amyotte encouraged the Aborignal students present to feel empowered for what is yet to come: “It will be the Indigenous people who will change business in this country for the long term,” he said.
Amyotte was passionate about his words, furthering his belief by saying, “It will be Indigenous people who take our country to the next level. I believe it to my core” and “We will be the beacon of hope in the Western world for what hope and culture look like”.
The ceremony concluded with a barbecue held in the library and a person winning a laptop.