Waterford’s Nikki Shawana, and her daughter Ziibi, danced The Fancy Shawl and The Jingle Dress on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.
“We’re really honoured to be here today,” said Shawana at the March for Truth and Reconciliation in Ingersoll. “Today (Sept. 30) is very important in our family. Ziibi and I will be dancing today – we are first and second generation residential school survivors. Her grandparents and great grandparents all attended residential school system.”
Shawana said her grandfather was very well known for getting in trouble.
“And getting a lot of punishments because he wouldn’t stop speaking his language. And none of the kids wanted to be his friend because he always answered them in Anishinaabemowin. And when he answered them in Anishinaabemowin then they all got in trouble. So I think about that on days like this. And I think about how my dad is fluent. And how thankful I am to my grandfather that even through all the hardships that he had, he never gave up on his language and he never gave up on his culture.”
Shawana said her daughter Ziibi, still tired from Wednesday’s dancing, was also excited to dance Thursday.
“I thought it was really important to show the generations and the healing that we are doing now,” said Shawana. “And how important it is that we’re here and that you’re here and that we’re working together towards a brighter future. And how we can change those things that have happened from a negative into a positive or turn around and take a positive route from here on out.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic Shawana started home-schooling her children. That led to teaching them Anishinaabemowin and their culture, and doing land-based learning.
“All of a sudden we’re reclaiming all of these things that were lost in our family. And so far they haven’t gone back to school because I just think about all of those parents that never had the opportunity to even spend time with their children, to have them home, to teach them what they know.”
Shawana runs craft and cultural workshops, and recalls one time making leather mittens with a group of elders.
“I thought these elders are probably going to say to this young girl ‘we’ve been working with leather all of our lives’ and they’re going to know a better way than me. So I asked, ‘Has anybody here ever worked with leather before and made mittens?’ And nobody raised their hand. ‘Has anybody here made traditional crafts?’ And nobody raised their hand. And it donned on me that these are all first generation or had been to residential school themselves and maybe they didn’t have the opportunity to learn that from their parents.
“So I just thought it was really special and important to have Ziibi here today to dance along with me to show how we are picking our language and our culture back up and how important it is, us youth today, we have a big responsibility now to try to undo some of that damage that was done in residential school. And we only have a limited time to learn as much about our culture and our language as we can so that we can carry that on to the future generations.”
Shawana said she was happy and excited to see parents and young people at the Ingersoll march.
“I know that Ziibi is going to grow up in a world where those things aren’t going to happen again and that people are going to work together for a brighter future.”