By: Damon Hunter
During the days of April 23 – April 26, I was in Ottawa – an area scattered with jaunty, new personalities. Among this group (of which I once lived alongside), I met highly creative, motivated individuals. These ‘individuals’ included teenage Ojibwe language teachers, dancers, and the esteemed Canadian MP Anita Vandenbeld. Laval Namaypoke (the Mazina’igan’s Youth Engagement Coordinator), and Xavier Ranville (a past contributor) had also partaken in the experience by my side.
During a three-day trip to my old city, Ottawa, Ontario, I was invited to attend NDRAMA 2019 and MamawiTogether as a ‘special guest’, though not initially planned. The whole thing was generously funded by TakingITGlobal through one of their offered travel grants. Even after an unfortunate, costly series of events they’d gladly upped the budget for us. A very charitable organization; co-founded by the ever-so-kind Michael Furdyk, whom I had the pleasure of ‘co-coordinating’ the trip with.
During my day attending the NRAMA 2019 Youth Conference at the Carleton University, I met Theland Kicknosway – an old childhood friend and neighbour who’s now a respected hoop dancer and public speaker, interestingly enough. We had both recognized each other’s names prior to meeting over lunch-hour. From “Do you want to come to my birthday party?” to speaking at the UN and hosting largely-recognized runs. Certainly an interesting situation.
Speakers such as comic book writer and author Jay Odjick, CBC Radio One host Rosanna Deerchild, and a few other eccentric figures attended, providing their life stories with undoubtedly thought-provoking morals in the auditorium.
The day following, I was scheduled to attend MamawiTogether at the University of Ottawa.
Before that though, I had the pleasure of visiting the on-campus CHUO-FM radio station. Xavier and I promptly received a tour of their workplace from a cheery figure named Mickey, who introduced us to a small-but-full room containing an almost monumental CD music collection. Shelf-after-shelf of 1990’s-2000’s underground tunes flooded the room. Next door to this was their recording studio, where Xavier and I both recorded intros to the show following the welcomed appearance of Darren, CHUO’s indigenous-focused radio host.
Shortly after our brief introduction to campus-radio we then directed our feet to the actual event: MamawiTogether. My time there was recognized a hundred times more than it was during NDRAMA 2019 – not that there’s a competition. Unknown people frequently approached and congratulated me on a personal level, providing much-appreciated support. If I remember correctly, I left that night feeling irregularly self-determined. This was my last full day in Ottawa.
The following day, my group and I readily arrived at the airport, set to board our plane to Winnipeg – home to the closest homebound airport capable of lengthy domestic flights.
The stay was great and the string of events within it, twice so. The two conferences welcomed my presence with an unexpected “special guest” title, though I didn’t speak. I screened a short version of my documentary thanks to co-creator Karli Zschogner’s cross-province editing and timeliness and met up with familiar faces in-between hour-to-hour busyness. All in all, it was an unintentionally perspective-altering experience and was, without a doubt, very interesting business. I hope to visit again soon – or travel elsewhere, who knows? “We’ll see”, as my signature phrase goes.