Celebrating Aboriginal Awareness Week and the Indigenous Writers Gathering at U of T

One of my favourite times of the school year is Aboriginal Awareness Week. It sort of feels like a holiday soiree happening between classes, when surprises, feasts and fun are around every corner at First Nations House. On Tuesday, I stepped into a soap stone carving workshop. A fellow classmate couldn't hide her enthusiasm when she saw me. "This is SO much fun!" She said, rubbing the stone Inukshuk she was working on for the last hour. I was amazed to see what students and community members were creating out of soap stone. Can you spot a buffalo, bear and walrus? That's a caribou antler that will be made into a sculpture. Although a lot of events have already happened (Indigenous activist Jessica Yee speaking about youth leadership, an Aboriginal Reiki workshop and Elder teachings) there is still a lot happening today and Friday. For budding writers, a lot of the events may be of particular interest to you. Also, as you scroll through the events, I recommend you listen to some Buffy Sainte Marie (if this was my personal blog, I would have written about her by now, guaranteed): Thursday Feb 9 10:30 am - Journalism and the preservation of our stories in the electronic age with Waubgeshig Rice, Wab Kinew and Muskrat Magazine Publisher Rebeka Tabobongung. I've seen Waubgeshig Rice read from his novel, Midnight Sweatlodge and he has a booming and powerful voice that makes everything he reads and talks about sound alive. I've also watched Wab Kinew interview one of my idols, Buffy Sainte Marie and he can hold his own against the legendary singer and songwriter. Both Rice and Kinew work for CBC, so if you want to see some seasoned pros talk about Indigeneity issues and journalism, this promises to be a worthwhile event. 12:30 pm - Poetry and politics with Lee Maracle and Ryan Red Corn of the 1491s. I personally recommend attending this event as I've had the pleasure of being taught by Maracle at U of T. Maracle's class was unforgettable because of her amazing storytelling ability. She's a writer who can actually tell stories orally, not just on paper. I've gone to the International Festival of Authors on several occasions and have been horrified when I've heard internationally-acclaimed writers actually speak. If you want to be blown away, I recommend you check this event out. Friday Feb 10 (I know you may not want to come to school on a Friday but I promise, it will be worth it) 10 am - Breakfast with the writers 12 pm -  Traditional storytelling and mythmaking with Daniel Heath Justice and Waubgeshig Rice. Justice is actually a professor of mine this year and I've noticed one of his strengths as a teacher is being able to make complicated huge ideas (such as traditional storytelling and mythmaking) a little less intimidating and accessible. I'm sure this will be a dynamic discussion for those interested in storytelling and oral tradition. 2 pm - Developing and utilizing writing groups with Bren Kolson and Lee Maracle. Creating a sense of community and a supportive place to work on your art is important. Students often talk about a lack of connection between one another at such a large institution like U of T, therefore a workshop that discusses the benefits of writing groups may inspire you to start up a small writing community and meet other individuals craving to connect. 4 pm - Writing for performance with the 1491's Dallas Goldtooth and Ryan Red Corn and writer/performer AmberLee Kolson. I'm not entirely sure what to expect but my professor pumped the 1491s, a comedy sketch group "based in the wooded ghettos of Minnesota and buffalo grass of Oklahoma". Oh, wait. And the best part of these events is that they are all FREE! I hope you'll be able to drop by First Nations House and check out the remaining events celebrating Aboriginal Awareness Week. Erin                       

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