Exhibition, Speeches, Song Form Part Of Outreach With The Mississaugas Of The Credit First Nations
By Bala Menon
MISSISSAUGA: “The world must learn about the different First Nation Communities of Canada, our distinct cultures, the past horrors of our residential school systems and it must all be part of our educational curriculum,” declared Carolyn King, former chief elder of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
At an impressive outreach event organized by the Dawoodi Bohras of Mississauga at the magnificent Anjuman-e-Fakhri Masjid Complex, Carolyn King said she hoped that the Markers and Identifiers sign campaign gets going well and cover the whole province of Ontario “so that future generations of Canadians will not forget on whose land we have settled.”
“My mother was a residential school survivor,” King said, reminding the audience of how June 21st was Indigenous Day in Canada and how the first week of November would be celebrated as Treaty Recognition Week.
During her interaction, King held aloft an eagle feather, which she said was the highest honour bestowed to a member of the First Nations and ‘which was equivalent to the Order of Canada’ conferred on her by the Canadian Government.
The event, billed as ‘A Cultural Exchange – Honouring the Diversity of Canada’ also included a display of paintings and craft by artists from the First Nations and the Dawoodi Bohras of Mississauga and a silent auction.
Amilsaheb Shk Behlah Ayman, president of the Dawood Bohra Mississauga Congregation, said: “As a community, we believe in giving back to society what we receive. We are grateful for the bountiful gifts we have received from this land – and we realize that the Indigenous People are caretakers of this land. They have strong ties with Mother Earth and its creatures and we assure you that you will have a friend in the Dawoodi Bohras.”
“Preservation of ancient knowledge and understanding it will be of benefit to everyone,” Amilsaheb said.
Mayor of Mississauga Bonnie Crombie said in her remarks: “I acknowledge the many Indigenous people on whose lands we live today. This is a time for meaningful dialogue – after the heartbreaking news about the mass graves of children being found in many places.”
Crombie called for ‘deep reflection’ of our history and that ‘we are all settlers on this land.’ She said she was happy that the Dawoodi Bohras had taken the initiative to host the event to honour Indigenous communities. She also urged the adoption of Indigenous history and culture as part of citizenship tests given to newcomers in Canada.
MP Iqra Khalid of Mississauga-Erin Mills, said it was difficult to erase the past 150 years or so of history and that mistakes cannot be undone by one government. “Events like these are concrete steps that we can take to make things right.”
MPP Nina Tangri pointed out how cultural exchange events boosted neighbourhoods and preserved the uniqueness of communities. “They also help in deepening our understanding of Indigenous and other cultures.”
During a virtual storytelling that followed, Chief Stacey LaForme of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, said: “We need to connect on spiritual and emotional levels. We have lots of problems, we struggle and we have a high number of suicides, but I shudder to think of a world where we are all the same; we are all unique, but our voices must be heard.” He added: “My wish is to see all of us stand as one; hope is the brightest star and our best possible future…”
Ontario Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Greg Rickford sent a virtual message. The event concluded with a Hindi-English song, composed by Amilsaheb Shk Behlah Ayman and presented by children of the Dawoodi Bohra congregation. A tour of the mosque complex was organized for visitors just before the silent auction of the artworks.