‘In this time of healing, we are finding our voice” – Indigenous artist Nancy Deleary


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Have you got anything planned for this coming Thursday?
You know, Sept. 30.
That would be our inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
If you’re fortunate enough to get the day off work, are you using the time to catch up on chores? Maybe get a leisurely round of golf in?
Or, perhaps your idea of time off is to binge-watch whatever Netflix has on offer.
Don’t forget, however, the true meaning of the day.
Moreso, in light of the discovery of hundreds – if not thousands – of unmarked graves so far this year.
Don’t know where to begin with commemorating the true meaning behind National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
Start by paying a visit to St. Thomas Public Library.
You don’t have to go inside.
Head over to the west exterior wall.
You can’t miss it.

A stunningly beautiful – yet complex – mural, designed and painted by Indigenous artist Nancy Deleary, a cultural coordinator at Chippewas of the Thames First Nation.
The work is titled All Are My Relatives, and it is part of the Track to the Future mural project in St. Thomas funded through the Estate of Donna Vera Evans Bushell and administered by Andrew Gunn.Nancy Deleary mural

I say complex in the sense the mural highlights the importance of storytelling.
And you can start with the corn prominently visible across the mural. The Ojibwa word for corn is Mondamin, the very same as Mondamin Street, which parallels the library’s west wall. In Anishinabe tradition, Mandaamin or Mondamin is the spirit of the corn.
As Rod Stewart sang, Every Picture Tells a Story and there is no shortage of tales in Deleary’s mural.
A small ceremony was held outside the library yesterday (Sept. 24) with Deleary on hand to officially convey the mural to CEO Heather Robinson.
The occasion allowed this corner to meet and converse with Deleary on a variety of topics.
She’s quite the storyteller. Get her to tell you about her great-grandmother who was determined to burn down Mount Elgin Indian Residential School, near Muncey.
But zeroing in on the mural itself, it literally speaks to you.

Nancy Deleary Indigenous artist Sept. 24-21 (2)

Nancy Deleary, a cultural coordinator at Chippewas of the Thames First Nation.

As Deleary noted, “First off, knowing this is a library, and this is a place where stories are stored, I wanted to relay the importance of storytelling in our culture.
“And, that method of storytelling had been done for thousands of years as our oral transference of knowledge and identity.”
A critically important aspect of Indigenous life is now coming back, advised Deleary.
“It was greatly disrupted by residential schools, which fractured generations of our people and our relation with each other.
“But now, in this time of healing, we are finding our voice and we are now becoming the storytellers that we once were for thousands and thousands of years.”

“You’re going to set an example by driving nails through children’s tongues? That’s a vicious and violent act.”

Most important, stressed Deleary, “Our language is tied to this land. All of Creation knows our language and we’re learning that.
“Every day at home in our First Nations, we are trying to revive our language, we are doing that right now on Chippewa.”
We talked recently here with Ray John, an Indigenous cultural teacher at the London District Catholic School Board, and his efforts to keep alive the language in his Oneida community. The link to that post is below.
Languages residential schools tried to erase in what is nothing short of cultural genocide, right here in Canada.
“You’re going to set an example by driving nails through children’s tongues? That’s a vicious and violent act,” reminded Deleary
“How is that going to resonate with other children? They are going to shut down. And they are going to internalize this hatred for who they are.
“I heard many of our elders say they went home and they put their people down for who they are.
“The relationships were fractured. Grandparents wouldn’t talk to their grandchildren.”
Deleary went on to explain the particular problem in her Chippewas of the Thames community.

“It’s that all of us learn about who we are as the First Peoples of this land and our perspectives.”

“Our infrastructure is so outdated because we are a nation that is growing but we have no place to build a classroom for our language and our culture and our heritage.
“We can’t even build another office building on our reserve or else we will overtax the water system.
“The water lines that were put in were too small. They shouldn’t have been the size that they were.
“But Indian Affairs back in the day said this bidder gets the contract and that is how business was done back then.”
Most distressing, advises Deleary, is the fact there are no language speakers in Chippewas of the Thames.
“They have all passed away and it was taken from our elders. So, we have to ask neighbouring First Nations to come and help us.
“And, we’ve been adopted by Walpole Island, who have really looked at us and think that we are such good people and they want to help us.”
And so elders from Walpole Island are transported to Chippewas of the Thames to help preserve that important aspect of their culture.
It’s all about once again being able to find our voice, stresses Deleary.
“It’s being accepted, but it wasn’t like that 10 or 20 years ago.”
We circled back to Sept. 30 and what this day means to Deleary.
“It’s that all of us learn about who we are as the First Peoples of this land and our perspectives.”
So, this coming Thursday, whether you have the day off or not, take time to dwell on this very first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Sure, it might feel somewhat uncomfortable.
But start with a quiet moment in front of Deleary’s mural.
Spend the time to study it carefully to understand its title, All Are My Relatives.

Related post:

‘How did a Third World country arrive right in the backyard of what they say is the greatest country in the world?’

ABOUT THAT PARKING AT THE PARK

It has proven to be a popular destination on a summer evening, what with the soccer pitches, basketball courts and playground.
But, that popularity comes with a price. In this case the lack of parking spots, an issue which came before city council at Monday’s (Sept. 20) meeting in the form of an email from a resident.1Password Park playground

“It does seem that we’re tight on parking,” pointed out Coun. Gary Clarke in reference to the email, “especially at the north end where the young soccer players are playing.”
Clarke continued, “I know the request (in the email) was to investigate the property at the east end which I believe is industrial land which couldn’t be used for the parking.
“There might be some merit in having it reviewed and see where we’re at with parking, especially at the north end.”

“We have three sites we have identified where we could expand parking and we plan to do that in the spring before the season commences.”

Mayor Joe Preston added, “I, like you, have been out there a few times talking to people. Anecdotally, we’re sometimes getting three cars per soccer player when you count grandma, grandpa, dad and mum. And we still really need to look at that.”
It was then over to Jeff Bray, the city’s director of parks, recreation and property management, who observed “This is really the kick-off of the facility . . . so we are aware there are parking deficiencies.
“We have three sites we have identified where we could expand parking and we plan to do that in the spring before the season commences.”
Full disclosure, as a youth soccer coach I have become very familiar with 1Password Park and, in addition to the parking situation, perhaps take a look at the drainage on some of the soccer pitches.
Water continues to pool on those fields long after it has stopped raining. In some cases, a pitch is akin to a soggy sponge a couple of days later.
HERE’S A TRAFFIC STOPPER

Looking to pick up some part-time work this school year?
Have you thought of becoming a crossing guard?
Seems they are in short supply at this time, according to city manager Wendell Graves.
“We would really appreciate it if anyone would reach out to our HR department if you saw an interest in helping out in those school zones a couple of times a day,” suggested Graves.
ONE TO WATCH

This from city clerk Maria Konefal who notes “administration intends to introduce a report at the Oct. 4 council meeting requesting approval of an unbudgeted expenditure relating to the construction of affordable housing and a fire substation on Queen Street, in partnership with Indwell Community Homes.”230 Talbot Street rearjpg

That would be Phase 2 of the social services and housing campus a block south of Talbot Street.
In January of this year, the city signed a memorandum of understanding with Indwell Community Homes to develop supportive housing projects.
Indwell is a Christian-based charity that has built supportive housing for more than 700 individuals in London, Woodstock, Simcoe and Hamilton.
The first joint effort with the city is the construction of the 16 micro-apartments on the second floor of the Talbot Street transit building.
They will also manage Phase 2 of the social services and housing campus.
We’ve documented in the past the city’s manager’s reference to “a soft business case” which has delayed commencement of construction on Phase 2.
Which begs the question, how are we doing with the business case for the childcare centre that was supposed to be in Phase 2 and then was shifted over to a new site on St. Catharine Street?
And is there any truth to the rumour fire trucks may experience difficulty maneuvering out of the future substation onto Queen Street?

Related posts:

Councillors are willing to do ‘a circus performance’ for childcare facility; the mayor would rather deflect

Childcare spaces disappear as the result of a ‘soft’ business case


THE ECHO CHAMBER

In response to our tree-planting item last week, Nancy Mayberry checked in with the following.

“Glad to see the importance of trees to the environment is being respected and promoted by the St. Thomas Community Foundation.
“It seems to be a generally accepted policy … except for the developer of the Alma College property.
“He cut down trees strictly prohibited in the contract because he was “mistakenly” given a permit by the city.”

To which Sue Margetts responded in the following fashion.

“Unfortunately you or I will not see any accountability for this.”

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.

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