Take time to learn and un­der­stand cul­ture

NAIG con­tin­gents will show­case di­ver­sity

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE MIL­TON

THERE

ARE IM­POR­TANT take­aways that those in­volved at the or­ga­ni­za­tional level want non-In­dige­nous peo­ple to draw from the North Amer­i­can In­dige­nous Games.

“We’d like more peo­ple come to our cul­tural festivals; to come and learn,” says Mar­cia Trudeau-Bomberry, CEO of the Toronto 2017 NAIG Host So­ci­ety.

“All par­tic­i­pat­ing teams were asked to bring cul­tural con­tin­gents here at a sig­nif­i­cant cost to them. That will show­case the di­ver­sity. Yukon, for in­stance, brought tra­di­tional dancers and drum­mers.”

The sym­bol of NAIG is Team 88, re­fer­ring to the 88th call to ac­tion of the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion, chal­leng­ing all gov­ern­ment lev­els to sup­port NAIG, and sport in gen­eral, as a bridge to heal­ing.

“When we look to the roots of the TRC, it’s not about gov­ern­ment and In­dige­nous peo­ple rec­on­cil­ing,” Trudeau-Bomberry told The Spec­ta­tor.

“It’s some­thing that needs wider pub­lic mo­bi­liza­tion. It’s about open­ing up to want­ing to learn more about In­dige­nous peo­ples.”

“Their com­mu­ni­ties, about the youth com­pet­ing in these games, the chal­lenges they’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in ev­ery­day life and how sport has helped with that and given them strength. And how their cul­ture helps with it, too. We’ve said all along that sports and cul­ture are in­ter­twined.”

The Games, fea­tur­ing more than 5,000 In­dige­nous ath­letes un­der 19 years old rep­re­sent­ing 20 re­gions from across Canada and the United States, opened Sun­day night and con­clude Satur­day night. While nine of the 14 sports are be­ing held in the Toronto area, five are be­ing held in and around Hamil­ton, and more than 2,000 ath­letes are stay­ing in McMaster res­i­dences.

There is a cul­tural fes­ti­val lo­cated in green space across from the univer­sity’s engi­neer­ing build­ing, open free to the pub­lic 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, through Fri­day. Two dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal acts play on the main stage ev­ery night.

Show­ing cul­tural di­ver­sity can also help put a crack in the foun­da­tion of racism, Trudeau-Bomberry says, be­cause one of the ba­sic as­sump­tions of racism is that its tar­gets con­sti­tute a mono­lith, with the same traits and char­ac­ter­is­tics.

“It’s eas­ily ac­cept­able that there are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent na­tions in a con­ti­nent as small as Europe, with dif­fer­ent cus­toms, and lan­guages and dis­tinct iden­ti­ties, with def­i­nite bor­ders,” Trudeau-Bomberry said. “Well, the same could be said in Canada, with dif­fer­ent cul­tures and iden­ti­ties. But there are no bor­ders.

“When you look at the dif­fer­ent First Na­tions across Canada and the United States, there are lots of dif­fer­ent cer­e­monies, ways of look­ing of things, dif­fer­ent value sys­tems and spir­i­tual life. There are some cen­tral themes, of course.”

Six Na­tions’ Greg Hen­hawk pro­motes In­dige­nous cul­ture and, as a Grand Erie Dis­trict School Board high school teacher, works with the School Within a Col­lege pro­gram in Oh­sweken.

“Peo­ple be­lieve that In­dige­nous peo­ple have one lan­guage, that we’re all one na­tion,” Hen­hawk says. “They don’t un­der­stand the con­cept that we’re 800 First Na­tions across North Amer­ica, pos­si­bly all with dis­tinct lan­guages, and some dif­fer­ent be­lief sys­tems.”

While there are many dif­fer­ences among First Na­tions, there are also cen­tral sim­i­lar­i­ties, such as cre­ation sto­ries, and Hen­hawk says that one of the goals this week is to “ed­u­cate non-Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple on the sub­tleties, and re­spect for the tra­di­tions. And it’s also about ed­u­cat­ing some of our own peo­ple who have been dis­con­nected.

“Our peo­ple have a lot of good ad­vice to of­fer, just like ev­ery other be­lief sys­tem or re­li­gion. But it just hasn’t been heard. I think lan­guage speaks tons about a cul­ture. For in­stance, I’ve trav­elled ev­ery Cana­dian prov­ince and ter­ri­tory and all but three states, and I’ve never come across an In­dige­nous lan­guage that has a word for ‘please’.

“My grand­mother ex­plained it to me that you ask with re­spect, or you don’t ask. There’s no need for ‘please’. We do say ‘thank you’ and we do say ‘you’re wel­come.’” There are sub­tle things like that. “We also have the idea that we speak with peo­ple, not at them. So this con­cept of gov­er­nance some­times be­ing from above is a for­eign thing to us. And it’s al­ways been that way.”

Mis­sis­sauga fire keeper Ge­of­frey Day­butch points to the hand­book dis­trib­uted to NAIG vol­un­teers. It con­tains all the TRC’s 94 calls to ac­tion. (avail­able at nctr.ca)

“In­cluded in our pack­age are ac­tual facts about the res­i­den­tial schools,” he says. “And the first prime min­is­ter of Canada is quoted as say­ing the child needs to be re­moved from ‘the sav­age.’ That was the in­tent of res­i­den­tial schools.

“Vol­un­teers are be­ing given a brief un­der­stand­ing of the his­tory and I re­ally feel that all Cana­di­ans should take a mo­ment to read that, too. The in­for­ma­tion is very, very vi­tal and im­por­tant for ev­ery Cana­dian.”

GARY YOKOYAMA, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Team On­tario’s Kait­lyn Bomberry hus­tles to first dur­ing U16 girls softball play be­tween Team On­tario and Team B.C. on Tues­day at Turner Park. Team On­tario won 6-0.

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