BRANTFORD – The Woodland Cultural Centre opened it’s auditorium doors to family and friends that wished to enjoy the book launch for “Tsi Niyonkwariho:tens: Our Ways Our Responsibilities” which is a collective of life stories from various Six Nations elders written by indigenous students from the Brantford Collegiate Institute.
As a major piece of the Elders Project artistic team, Project Co-ordinator Lorrie Gallant wrote to explain the title choice of the book.
“There really isn’t a word in our languages that translates to elder,” wrote Gallant. “The English language has taught people to assume we are speaking about elderly people but that is not the case. When indigenous people say the word ‘elder’ we are referring to the wise ones; the ones that have something to share with us.”
This is why “Tsi Niyonkwariho”tens” was used as a way to recognize the “wise ones.” But, Gallant went on to explain that the book wasn’t the entire basis of the project.
“This book is not the purpose of this project but simply the result,” she wrote. “Conversations took place that didn’t make it to these pages, inspiring words were passed down, and were written on the hearts of the youth.”
Gallant along with her daughter Holly Gallant, Sherri Vansickle, Naomi Johnson and Chezney Martin each worked in respective areas for the project with nine students to complete the booklet, which will be used as an archive of the chosen elders.
And as the co-ordinator of the students, Vansickle also wrote to second Gallant.
“What a beautiful and precious journey to take with these young people as they listened to the stories of our elders,” wrote Vansickle. “There were times of tears, shock, anger and of course lots of laughter when the young ones shared what they were learning.”
“My optimism for the faces yet to come grows as I watch our youth interview and photograph our older friends,” she wrote. “My hope is that our young people will continue to learn about and practice our original instructions about how to live a life such that they continue to strive to be good Onkwehon:we.”
Each of the students: MacKenzie Henhawk-General, Caleb Johnson, Lexi Martin, Cherokee Maracle-Jamieson, Creedon VenEvery, Samantha Miller, Dion Martin, Kaysha Jamieson, and Jena Hill each worked diligently after selecting an elder to interview to bring their stories to light.
The likes of Norma General-Lickers, Rebecca Jamieson, Beverley Jacobs, John Elliot, Dawn Hill, Tom Deer, Tim Johnson, Ava Hill, Elizabeth Doxtator and Carol Jacobs grace the pages of the book as their stories range from academics to overcoming colonization.
The book is a powerful archive that documents and recognizes the lives of the elders, and captures the spirit of connecting the wise to the young.