Laura Cranmer invited us today to the First Nations Studies’ Yearend Celebration. It was unlike any such event we have ever participated in. First of all, it opened with a song and a prayer said by the Elders in Residence, blessing all the guests and thanking the Snuneymuxw for giving permission to hold the celebration on their territory. All participants were required to stand up and many held up their hands in prayer and thanksgiving. After the official beginning of the celebration, Louise Mandell, the honoured guest speaker, gave a lecture about her involvement in the Aboriginal Rights movement and about the legal and political situation of First Nations in Canada. She spoke at length about the founding of the Assembly of First Nations and their 1980 manifesto in Ottawa entitled Declaration of First Nations, as well as the subsequent fight for treaty rights of Aboriginal Peoples.
|Songs with the Accompaniment of Drums.|
|Members of the Faculty with the Snuneymuxw Chief (second left).|
After the lecture we attended a splendid feast in honour of the graduating students of the First Nations Program. The meal was followed by several aboriginal songs performed with the accompaniment of drums, as well as other cross-cultural performances courtesy of first year students of the program (a song from the Republic of South Africa and a dance from Japan, among others). Many thanks were expressed on behalf of lecturers, students, and the First Nations elders sharing their wisdom during classes. What was most heartwarming was the welcoming atmosphere that made the Yearend Celebration more like a family gathering rather than a university event. These extremely close bonds formed between the faculty and students is what sets the First Nations Program aside from other programs at Vancouver Island University and we felt very honoured to take a small part in their celebrations.