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First Nations House kicks off Indigenous Education Week

“From Basra to Standing Rock: Decolonial love, hip hop and solidarity” will feature hip hop artist Quese IMC (photo courtesy of Quese IMC)

Visual artists, hip hop artists, poets and scholars are among those helping U of T celebrate Indigenous Education Week 2017.

Organized and curated by First Nations House, which provides year-round social, academic and financial supports to Indigenous students on campus, the week kicks off Sunday with a free concert at Hart House by Juno-winning musical power duo, Digging Roots. 

“This week will showcase and centre Indigenous presence in the academy,” said Susan Blight, Aboriginal Student Life coordinator at First Nations House.

Typically, Indigenous Education Week happens inside First Nations House on Spadina Avenue. But this year, as First Nations House marks its 25th anniversary, the events will fan out across the downtown Toronto campus, says Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo, director of First Nations House. 

“Twenty-five years ago there were very few places doing Indigenous education so First Nations House would have been one of the key places to do that,” he says. 

Hamilton-Diabo notes that the landscape for Indigenous learning at U of T has evolved since then. 

“Now, it’s a different scenario because there are more [departments], more places doing it. There’s just more of an opportunity for other places to take the lead as well,” he said. 

Indigenous Education Week will feature a series of events exploring a blend of contemporary topics, participatory workshops and traditional teachings.

“From Basra to Standing Rock: Decolonial love, hip hop and solidarity” will feature hip hop artist Quese IMC (Marcus Frejo) who is Pawnee and Seminole from Oklahoma, in conversation with Yassin “Narcy” Alsalma of Iraqi ancestry from Montreal.

The talk is  moderated by Audrey Hudson, who studies hip hop at OCAD University, and promises to be fascinating, Blight says, particularly since Frejo is a water protector. 

“Quese IMC just returned from Standing Rock. He founded the Pawnee camp at the Ochete Sakowick camp at Standing Rock, and they’ll really be talking about hip hop and solidarity,”  Blight says. 

“Clearing A Path: Poetry For a Unified Future” is a discussion with poets, Lee Maracle, Gwen Benaway and Gregory Scofield, meant to explore poetry’s relationship to ancestral knowledge and Indigenous languages, Blight says.

Maracle – also a Traditional Teacher at First Nations House – will be reading from her newly published work, Talking to the Diaspora.

She says that it’s a long, political poem addressing how everyone in Canada who is not Indigenous to this land, is diasporic. 

Lisa Boivin hosts a workshop at First Nations House on Jan. 23 on image-based storytelling and logo making.

A member of the Deninu Kue First Nation in Northwest Territories, Boivin is an interdisciplinary artist and a master's student at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at U of T's Faculty of Medicine. She uses digital painting and image-based storytelling to bridge gaps between medical ethics and aspects of Indigenous cultures and worldviews.

Visual artist Joi T. Arcand will be part of a conversation with Karyn Recollet from women and gender studies at U of T, talking about her art and design practice.

The conversation will cover topics like, “Imaginging the future, Indigenous feminisms and decolonial design,” said Arcand.  

First Nations House's Elder in Residence Andrew Wesley will be doing a teaching about the intergenerational impacts of residential schools. 

“He has a lot to contribute to that discussion. I think it’s particularly relevant considering last week the TRC Steering Committee gave its final report to the president," Blight says. “It’s very timely and an important time to have that discussion and have him share that kind of knowledge.” 

U of T's S.A.G.E. (Supporting Aboriginal Graduate Enhancement) is offering a self-care workshop and there is the opening of the new office of Indigenous Studies Student Union. 

 All events are free and open to the public. You can also join the conversation on Twitter at #UofTIEW2017.