Song and reflection mark DC’s Aboriginal Awareness Day

The fourth annual Aboriginal Awareness Day, held in the Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre at Durham College (DC) on January 21, drew students, employees, community members and local elementary school groups into a lively celebration of Aboriginal culture. Presented by DC’s Aboriginal Student Centre, Suswaaning Endaajig, the event also focused on education and reflection.

During his welcome remarks, DC president Don Lovisa presented Chief Kelly LaRocca of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation with a signed copy of the Indigenous Education Protocol, developed by Colleges and Institutes Canada, in recognition of DC’s commitment to Indigenous education. Chief LaRocca then shared insights into Aboriginal history, including the broad scope of the Mississaugas’ traditional territories upon which the college is situated.

Throughout the day, attendees were invited to grow the college’s Truth and Reconciliation Tree by writing what reconciliation means to them on a paper leaf and hanging it from a branch. The tree will be moved to the Aboriginal Student Centre where people can view it and add their own message.

 “We want today’s festivities to both entertain and inform,” said Julie Pigeon, Aboriginal student advisor for DC. “Aboriginal Awareness Day is an opportunity for us to invite the community to explore the rich diversity of Aboriginal culture in addition to continuing important conversations related to the history, particularly around reconciliation.”

The day’s events also included a traditional prayer and Smudging ceremony led by Elder Shirley Williams and Gerard Sagassige and performances by the All My Relations drum circle, Inuit throat singer Naulaq LeDrew, the Smoke Trail Singers and Dancers, storyteller Darrell LaFrance and drummer/singer Kim Wheatley.

The Aboriginal Student Centre strives to recognize and support students through various activities and teachings with the assistance of Elders from all backgrounds. It uses a holistic approach to education by focusing on student’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.