Historical Throwback: Inauguration of the New Program of Aboriginal Studies at the University of Ottawa

Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2019

This is an original text from April 2004

A special ceremony in the history of the University of Ottawa took place last Thursday, April 15 [2004]. The site was Elder William Commanda’s Anishinaabe Lodge, in the Algonquin community of Kitigan Zibi (Maniwaki). The event was the inauguration of the Aboriginal Studies Program, recently created at the University of Ottawa.

In all, thirty people gathered in the Lodge of the Algonquin spiritual leader, whose 90th anniversary was communally celebrated last November. Many of the attendees were persons responsible for the elaboration of the new Program, which took place over more than ten years. A two and a half hour traditional Talking Circle ceremony was officiated by Elder Commanda, during which the participants, holding in turn an eagle feather, told the story of how each of “the relatives of this child prepared it to be born” (as the metaphor is now set), as well as spoke about “the kind of care this child now needs to receive if it is to become the strong and happy offspring it was dreamed to become”.

The Algonquin and Aboriginal community expressed its joy at seeing in its midst the two Deans of the two University Faculties involved in the conceptualization and operation of the Program, namely Dean Caroline Andrew of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Dean Tibor Egervari of the Faculty of Arts.  Because of such obvious respect and support on the part of the University, Elders and other guests shared firm feelings of hope for the future success of the Aboriginal Studies Program in helping to create the educational and social bridges needed by all Aboriginal and Non-aboriginal Canadians in order to harmonize and strengthen their global society. Mr. Gilbert Whiteduck, President of the University’s Aboriginal Council, who has been involved in this effort from the very start, also expressed his deep satisfaction with this accomplishment and let the assembly ponder on the great task which lies ahead of developing the kind of institution that will generate the far-reaching, culturally-sensitive, Aboriginal-based educational system that is needed.

The ceremony was followed by a real northern Indian banquet: a delicious, huge “chibai” (in French, cipâte) of moose and other succulent country meats, warm Indian bannock, as well as flavorsome, oven-baked beans, served with sweet maple syrup produced in the Kitigan Zibi territory, all sorts of tasty pastries and every kind of non-alcoholic drinks.  To top it all, Kidji Manito had given all His/Her children a wonderful, sunny spring day!

                                                                                                Georges Sioui, Coordinator
                                                                                                Aboriginal Studies Program
                                                                                                University of Ottawa
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