Community Gathering Notes

Date: Monday, October 18, 2021.

Gathering Start: 11:00 AM.

Gathering End: 3:00 PM.

In the Circle: 12 people in the room total, including Gathering hosts, Co-Conveners, and ArtsBuild Ontario (ABO).

 

Opening

 

As a smudge was lit by the entrance of the studio, Gathering co-host Sid Bobb introduced Knowledge Keeper Dan Commanda to formally open the Gathering Circle. Dan offered an opening, emphasizing the healthy and safe nature of Big Medicine Studio. The path of the conversation then allowed everyone to introduce themselves, and tell a story of a space that had meaning to those in the Gathering Circle.

Highlights from introductions

Introductions were framed around both positive and negative experiences in spaces, where participants helped to nurture their spirits in these moments. The meaning of the spaces involved themes of:

  • Coexistence with the land and with others (who have settled on the territory).

  • A feeling of safety.

  • Family, clans.

  • Indigenous sovereignty and grappling with concepts of occupying vs. owning space/places.

  • Openness and welcoming.

Participants identified that Big Medicine Studio is a highly-regarded space used for artistic production by those in the community.

 

The visioning of a space: a creative activity

 

Gathering Co-Host Penny Couchie led an activity for everyone to contribute words and drawings to a large paper pinned to the wall, answering the following questions:

  • What is a great space?

  • What makes a great space?

  • What is essential for a great space?

 

Everyone in the Gathering Circle enjoyed a meal together and added to the paper during this lunch period.

 

Highlights from discussion

 

What is a great space?

  • A committed space with First Nations values that is culturally safe, with an open mind and heart without barriers (systemic or otherwise).

  • A space for connections and relationships to be made/sustained.

  • A space that upholds an adoption of spirit, where healing is at the centre of the space: giving an opportunity to help others in community, and to heal ourselves.

  • A space that is welcoming, that evokes a feeling of ‘home’ and ‘family,’ and invites you to find yourself, your identity, and your strength.

  • A space to work with and from the land.

  • A space to teach and share knowledge of different artistic practices (beading, dance, music etc.)

 

What makes a great space?

  • A space that provides the opportunity to teach and learn.

  • A space that offers good, healthy, and nurturing food: the opportunity to feast in a space is very important.

  • A space that emphasizes co-existence and understanding that each person who enters needs a different kind of safety, and this need can be delicate in many unique ways.

  • The space must always be evolving.

What is essential for a great space?

  • The space must animate art and art-making in different forms.

  • The space must be connected to the land (stewarded year-round).

  • Family and relationships must be at the centre.

  • Access and inclusivity: the space must be free of oppression and advocate for respect of all individuals.

  • A sense of compassionate listening must be present in the space.

Aanmitaagzi’s Tipi

An image of Aanmitaagzi’s tipi.

Guided visualization exploring the impact of space: a creative activity

 

Following a review of all that was written on the paper, Penny Couchie led everyone through a guided visualization activity with the accompaniment of music. Everyone in the Gathering Circle was given a piece of paper and access to colored pencils, markers, and pastels. Penny asked each participant to draw the following prompts on different sections of the paper:

  • Where did you come from?

  • Where did you land?

  • What is a space that called to you?

  • What negative or unneeded things would you leave behind from this space?

  • What is a space you dream of?

Highlights from discussion

 

Beginnings are rooted in nature and spirits. Participants of the Gathering Circle felt a connection to water, green earth, crystals, storms etc.

 

Spaces dreamt of ranged from the physical to the spiritual, and a combination of the two.

 

Circle members shared memories of institutions with open-heartedness in their programming.

 

Indigenous leadership must come together to be stronger in creative spaces.

 

Safety and inclusivity are paramount in these spaces.

 

The space encapsulates the beauty of nature, spanning as far and all-encompassing as can be witnessed.

 

What is left behind in a space is very personal and reflects what must be avoided in Indigenous sovereign spaces. These include:

  • Loss of identity through barriers (systemic and other).

  • Feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and trauma.

  • Addictions and drug abuse.

  • The restrictive nature of “brick walls and red tape.”

  • The feeling of being in a lodge should carry over to the space.

It is important to treat and care for the space as a living being by feeding and acknowledging the spirit of the space (through ceremony, feasting, etc.). There will be times when you feel that elements degrade or threaten it, and it must be protected.

Closing

 

The Gathering Circle was closed with Penny Couchie and Sid Bobb sharing warm feelings of thanks for everyone in the room for their stories, thoughts, and feelings.