Community Gathering Notes
Date: Sunday, October 17, 2021.
Gathering Start: 2:00 PM.
Gathering End: 5:00 PM.
In the Circle: 22 in circle total, including Gathering host, Co-Conveners, and ArtsBuild Ontario (ABO).
The Gathering began with everyone coming together in circle and introducing themselves. Elders Hugh McKenzie and Michaele Oleary opened the conversation, welcoming everyone in the Gathering Circle. Gathering host Christine Friday offered a smudge to everyone, and the circle enjoyed a meal together before getting into the conversation.
Highlights from introductions
During introductions, everyone spoke highly to the importance of making space for generations of children, as well as kinship, and clan family meaning to creative cultural spaces. The act of creating these spaces is a reclamation through sovereign art/culture-making within communities.
There is a group understanding that art/culture-making in the community has always been happening on Friday’s Point, Bear Island, and the surrounding area, which is on a territorial travel route and the traditional tribal/hunting territory of the families of N'dakimenan representing the Algonquin Nation, Wabi Makwa.
The values of Indigenous sovereign space
Each individual in the Gathering Circle began by speaking to Indigenous values in creative space, and what sovereign spaces need to uphold in the future.
Highlights from discussion
There can be restrictive rules in colonial institutions. For example, to prepare food and share a meal in a space is integral as a form of bringing the work back to the land.
A space should not take artists and community members away from what they want to do. The Gathering Circle felt that songs that must be sung are restricted for Indigenous artists in colonial spaces. This is an extremely hurtful feeling to experience in settler spaces. Sovereign spaces should not take away from the identity of the artists.
A space should welcome both status and non-status Indigenous artists. The group noted that children leave behind ‘membership’ if they marry two generations outside.
The space would support community, cultural identity, and reclamation. Values that must be upheld include: Land, Family, and Love. Christine Friday noted that her vision to create a space on Friday’s Point, family land, allows her to carry family on her journey and create a stronger presence in the territory. In doing so, it is a way of protecting family territories.
Christine Friday shared the story of Friday’s Point, and how it was not fairly compensated. Friday’s Point is significant for the family born around here. It is a place for hunting, as well as to connect and express yourself as an artist. Friday’s Point was the site of a former hunting lodge owned and operated by the family, and it was previously burned down as an act of hate. Friday’s Point was also a point of tourism in the 1960’s, and it has a history of hurtful and trampling change that encroached upon their ancestors’ way of life. Now is the right time with the idea for a creation centre on Friday’s Point, to honor these values and feelings.
A space should serve future generations. The Gathering Circle valued this space to be a place for youth to come and be on the land.
A sovereign creative space must be spiritual as well. The power of ceremony, feasting, and people would be lifted up. Treating the space as a living, breathing being is also important: its fire must be fed with food and spirit.
Sovereign creative spaces should be safe spaces where people can share stories and work together. The Gathering Circle referred to the feeling of safety in Big Medicine Studio in Nipissing, for example: Aanmitaagzi does things in a cultural way.
In sharing, consultation in this space is a must. Eg. Avoid a situation such as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s exclusion of consultation before production of the show “Going Home Star.”
There is an interconnectedness between the land and art.
An image from the Friday’s Point Community Gathering.
A model for creating artistic space
The Gathering Circle spoke on different models that are can be nurturing or detrimental to Indigenous creative spaces, and what must be pursued.
Highlights from discussion
What can be done to bring back the knowledge and move to the future? There is a group understanding that a completely new vision of a creative space is more important than the idea of investing in a million-dollar facility. The colonial approach to envisioning how to develop a space is not a model to fit everyone’s visions. The Gathering Circle agreed that individuals should avoid the colonial approach to financing the project for a creation centre at Friday’s Point. The project should not incur debt, but also shouldn’t wait for a space to be made. There were recommendations around avoiding getting caught up in government for grants. There is the option of approaching the band for support in this development, but this model also does not match all visions. It is worthwhile to explore how to do things outside of the band system. The colonial model of inclusion is not enough, and Canada is not sharing resources.
It is difficult to envision the steps of developing a space beyond visioning due to the pandemic.