Angela Arthur, Leah Grimes, Jeff Turner and Thaddeus Attagutaluk, from left to right, all attended the first fire on Jan. 19. Photo credit: Noah Leafloor

A welcoming fire in the Ishkodewan courtyard brought many students together on Thursday, Jan. 19 with lots of laughs, conversations and snacks.

The event, hosted by the Mamidosewin Centre, featured hot chocolate and cookies. Participants heard from speakers of many diverse voices on how the social fire impacted them, and what they plan to do for next month’s fire.

“We host the fire’s because it creates an awareness for the opportunity of people learning about truth and reconciliation,” said Eric Johnston, manager for the Mamidosewin Centre. Johnston’s strong suits are in land history, Indigenous knowledge and politics. He feels that the fire is an informative opportunity for all people.

“The Mamidosewin Centre will be hosting a social fire every month to keep our community strong, as well as getting the calendar and newsletter ready for events,” said Johnston.

“The event was created because the fire pit wasn’t used enough,said Leah Grimes, activity and events representative with the college. “It brings people in and gives a sense of community.”

Previously on AC Day 1, during the start of the winter semester, over 250 people of 22 nationalities came to the social fire,” said Jeff Turner, senior manager for Indigenous partnerships and special projects, who works in the truth and reconciliation office.

“We all got together and went around the circle socializing,” said Turner.

Turner handles managing and overseeing the fire at every event. “I’ve been doing it for three years,” he said.

“We need more people to volunteer for managing the fire,” said Turner. “The Mami-Centre will ask for people to volunteer, and they will get trained by Ottawa Fire, and then manage the fire.”

“Fire is very significant to Indigenous people because their creator gave them fire,” he said. Turner has a background in Indigenous culture and volunteers to help Indigenous students.

“I’m getting to know other Indigenous heritages,” said Thaddeus Attagutaluk, a level- three student in the welding fabrication techniques program from Nunavut. He is a part-time navigator for Indigenous people.

“I might return, or when Eric Johnston wants me to help out,” said Attagutaluk.

One student who attended the event is Angela Arthur, a level-four student in the early childhood education program who will graduate this spring. Arthur likes to attend college events like this even though she is currently off doing her work placement.

“I try to utilize time for events because it’s great to take part in cultures as an international student,” said Arthur. “I can’t take leave for events often because of my work schedule. I will miss Algonquin and events like these.”

The next social fire event will be on Feb. 16 with more snacks, beverages and people.