Squash, beans and corn are sisters. When planted together, they grow and support each other as any good sisters would.
Corn supports bean’s. Beans give corn nitrogen, fertilizing it. Squash provides shade and protects other sisters from weeds.
Together, they are Three Sisters, the traditional Indigenous soup.
Algonquin College students, staff and alumni had a chance to try it on Sept. 29 after the screening of two movies dedicated to the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
“We seek truth to reconcile,” said Claude Brulé, president and CEO of the college.
The first movie was Honour to Senator Murray Sinclair produced by the National Film Board of Canada in 2021. It is based on the speech given by the now-former senator when accepting the Canada World Peace Award in 2016.
At the time Sinclair was the co-chair of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In the movie, his speech was interrupted by stories of those who went through the Canadian residential school system.
“I thought I would be brave to face the demons that haunted me for 49 years,” said Paul Voudrach. He was one of the many who were separated from their family never to see them again. One of the many who were beaten. One of the many who were sexually abused.
Of course, there were stories that could not be told. Stories of kids who did not survive.
“The spirits of these children are bringing this reconciliation,” said Kerry Potts, the organizer and the Indigenous pedagogy and curriculum consultant. But she quickly corrected herself. “(They) are bringing this truth up through the ground, not reconciliation.”
Reconciliation is the job of the living, and it goes way beyond the residential school system of the past century. That was the notion of the Colonization Road, the second movie at the screening.
It was narrated by Ryan McMahon, Anishinaabe comedian and the creator of Thunder Bay — first the podcast, then the short series about violence against Indigenous people in northern Ontario.
McMahon takes us on a little voyage across Ontario starting with his hometown, Fort Frances.
“We need to talk,” he says. He is talking to Colonization itself. He grew up on the road of its name – Colonization Road. He explores the history of colonization and its roots in every aspect of Canadian life.
But no matter what, he concludes with a firm, “Colonization, you lose.”
After the screening, everyone grabbed their soup cups with Three Sisters and moved to the college’s Ishkodewan courtyard in the DARE district to sit in the Gathering Circle.
People around the fire, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, were sitting on Indigenous land and eating Indigenous soup.
Some threw tobacco into the fire. It is said that tobacco smoke opens the soul to allow the spirits to bring their healing powers. True or not, that’s the culture that has the right to exist. That’s the culture that Algonquin College had the chance to explore.