Re-Storying The Land: Fifth Annual First Voices Week Promotes Indigenous Visibility

Indigenous-Led Initiative Builds Bridges Across Concordia

Events will be taking place until Feb. 7. Courtesy Jason Tulugak Sikoak

“If every single human being disappeared from Mother Earth tomorrow morning, Mother Earth would thrive, because we are killing Mother Earth. The respect for Mother Earth and everything that grows on her and lives on her is gone.”

Mohawk Elder Sedalia Kawennotas’s words echoed through the atrium of the EV building Monday morning at the opening ceremony of First Voices Week.

This week at Concordia, Indigenous communities across Canada are in the spotlight for fifth annual First Voices Week. Between Feb. 3 and Feb. 7, First Voices Week will host workshops, film screenings, and panel discussions that promote Indigenous visibility.

Organized and funded by internal and external organizations, the initiative places Indigenous voices at its centre. The Concordia Student Union, the Sustainability Action Fund, and Cinema Politica are among the organizations that played a role in coordination and funding.

“It’s hard to get visibility for Indigenous students,” said one of the coordinators, Autumn Godwin. “That’s kind of one of the reasons why we’re doing this, to have more visibility at Concordia.”

Indigenous voices have been, and still are, silenced in institutional settings. Indigenous students still have the lowest rates of graduation, and a lack of representation within the media and in universities creates more of a gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

The tagline of the initiative is to build bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities by celebrating Indigenous diversity. Showcasing events led by individuals from various Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, First Voices Week aims to enrich, educate, and inspire.

A film screening and discussion with acclaimed Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, an artist showcase, and a panel on Indigenous solidarity best practices are only some of the exciting events taking place this week.

“I sincerely hope that in following years, one of the major sources of pride at Concordia University may be its commitment to and to its engagement with Indigenous reality around us and decolonization of the university,” said President Graham Carr on stage.

Co-coordinator and undergraduate student Savannah Latoya is hopeful for a large turnout. “I hope a lot of people look forward to this in the coming years,” she said. “Not just Indigenous people, but all people. I hope that they look at this as a safe space to not only celebrate us as Indigenous Peoples, but just to celebrate everyone coming together.”

Events are set to take place around Concordia and Dawson College over five days.

Check out the initiative’s Facebook page for a list of free events.