On the evening of Friday, January 18th, the Faculty & Curriculum Development Centre (FCDC) proudly hosted renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson who has been widely recognized as one of the most compelling Indigenous voices of her generation. Simpson, who is a member of Alderville First Nation, came to OCAD U to present a talk on “Land as Pedagogy,” followed by a question and answer period with students, faculty and staff in attendance.
Over 250 people filled the OCAD U auditorium, and listened intently as Simpson transformed the space into an intimate story-telling experience. Simpson’s work is known to break open the intersections between politics, story and song—bringing audiences into a rich and layered world of sound, light, and sovereign creativity. Simpson’s talk Friday evening did just that. Audience members cheered as Simpson dropped, in her words, “truth bombs” amidst her animated re-telling of three adaptations of a Nishnaabeg story about maple sugar.
FCDC’s Nadia McLaren opened the event with a land acknowledgement and shared “I wish to also acknowledge there is still much work needed to be done to uncover the history and original names of this Land. I stand here, grateful for the wisdom of all who came before me, keeping in heart and mind our relations from the North – Giiwedinong, East – Waabanong, South – Zhaawanong and from the West – Ningaabi’anong.”
The evening culminated with a mesmerizing screening of Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes), a 19-minute stop-motion animation film, inspired by the poetic words of Leanne Simpson and directed by Vancouver based filmmaker, Amanda Strong. The short film, which made its screen debut at TIFF 2018, tells the story of Biidaaban, a non-binary character, who is accompanied by a 10,000-year-old shapeshifter and guide known as Sabe. Together they set out on a mission to reclaim the ceremonial harvesting of sap from maple trees.
All three stories shared by Simpson during the evening centered around this harvesting of sap from trees (something that Indigenous people have done since time immemorial) and all three centered Indigenous knowledges and relationships to land; a reclamation of land as pedagogy.
In an effort to facilitate respectful knowledge engagement and build meaningful and lasting relationships, Simpson’s lecture was part of a series of public education events being organized by the FCDC during the 2018-19 academic year to foster important and necessary dialogue across the university and support its goals around Indigenous curriculum development. The next event in the series is a screening of Muffins for Granny