BRANTFORD – The Wilfred Laurier University’s Research and Academic Centre opened it’s doors to those wishing to hear Director of Languages at the Woodland Cultural Centre Amos Key Jr. speak on the dark history of Canada’s residential schools on Wednesday, March 1.
As Key has been an advocate for indigenous languages and a restorer of the Mohawk and Cayuga Languages for the past three decades, his words rang true and deep with emotion in regards to the lasting impact of residential schools — which hoped to strip indigenous people of their culture and language.
He offered a PowerPoint presentation of a historical time line of the residential school impact – even beefing up the information with statistical evidence. Members of the audience were given a front-row seat to what it would have been like as a child being raised in the ‘60s scoop as well, as Key’s mother had instructed him on how to prevent being taken.
One of the more insightful points of the night for those that don’t quite understand indigenous spirituality was when Key explained the importance of “gen dao”, or life.
“My work right now is to create sort of a manifesto of who we are as Sanjogwehonwe, Haudenosaunee people. And I’m trying to debunk the term ‘culture’ when we self-identify.”
“It’s such a pan-Indian term that we’ve accepted as Onkwehon:we people, as Anishnaabe people, as Muskegowa people in the North. And we jump to that term too, as First Peoples. We always say ‘oh, that’s our culture,’ but it’s much more. If you do a deeper dive it’s much more than culture. It is the collective intellect of our people.”
“The intelligence that we have, [as an example] I have a different kind of artistic type of intelligence because I’m Onkwehon:we, I have ecological intelligence, I have psychological intelligence, I have all of my ceremonies for that. That’s what helps me heal. I don’t have to go to an analysis thing, or sit down on somebody’s couch because we have it embedded in our civilization. Often it’s celebrated with music and dance, and words to our Creator. What a beautiful thing that is.”
His words received a loud applause, and Outreach Co-ordinator for the Woodland Cultural Centre Jessica Powless said that the opportunity to educate people through lecture is “great”.
“Amos is the language director of the Woodland Cultural Centre, so we’ve worked together for the last year and a bit,” said Powless. “But being able to be here and talk to people about the [Save the Evidence Campaign] and what we are and what we do is a really, really great experience and opportunity.”
Powless explained that along with the lecture, she offers information about the Woodland Cultural Centre and the campaign to help save the former Mohawk Institute in Brantford. This particular lecture encapsulates the work of Key and the knowledge offered within the centre.
“These lecture series being people from all over, of different interests and even age groups. We get a lot of students and then we get a lot of seniors, so it’s an interesting mix. But it’s absolutely fantastic to be able to talk to each and every one of them to tell them about the campaign, what we’re doing; especially if they’ve never heard of us before.”
The night was filled with Key’s humour, and traditional view on matters that the people in attendance can hopefully better understand.