Across Canada, people come together September 30 to observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

This day is meant to honour survivors of the Canadian residential school system, and to mourn the loss of Indigenous children who never returned home and the survivors who did come home.

In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, Base31 wanted to pose the question: what does it mean for Prince Edward County and how can we support the Indigenous community?

In response to this question, Base31 reached out to David R. Maracle to get his perspective on ways we can raise awareness.

And with that, David R. Maracle, Tehanenia’kwe:tarons – Cutter of Stone, brought together a group of talented Indigenous artists to perform a benefit concert in support of Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na Mohawk Language and Cultural Centre

The TTO centre is a not-for-profit serving the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory community and all of those seeking to learn about their kanienʼkehá꞉ka – language and culture.

Last Saturday, Sept. 24, Base31 welcomed David, along with his son from Six Nations, Youngblood Mark Montour, up-and-coming Indigenous youth artist, eaoh Argos, JUNO award-winning husband and wife duo Raven Kanatakta and ShoShona Kish of, Digging Roots, multi-instrumentalist Donald Quan, and percussionist Ray Farrugia. 

As we ushered people out of The Drill Hall at the close of last Saturday’s benefit concert, there was a stillness left here. A sense of reflection, of understanding and of appreciation for the Indigenous performers who brought their rich culture into our space.

Photo Credit: Ophelia Spinosa
Youngblood Marcus Montour from Six Nations (left) performing with his father, David R. Maracle. Photo Credit: Ophelia Spinosa
David is a multi-instrumentalist, artist and sculptor who lives on the neighbouring Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, and is a strong advocate for his traditional kanienʼkehá꞉ka culture, language and rights for Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island.

“When something beautiful like this happens, an opportunity to share our culture, we can get out and tell our story, it is very special,” Maracle explained. “Our Indigenous peoples all over Turtle Island are having so many opportunities where they can share their history. The Musical and Theatre stages are growing and getting larger for our people and its starting to meld into the mainstream of our societies. Now we see all of Canada paying attention, with Truth and Reconciliation events all over Canada. It’s exploding on many radio and television stations, and it’s pretty amazing. It feels good. I think about my family who were survivors of the Residential School. They would really be so happy to see this. Canadians are really starting to pay attention to this very important time in history for our Indigenous Peoples and have a place in their hearts for us.”

If you could tell the community one thing they should know about Truth and Reconciliation, what would it be?

“Look. Listen. Stand in awe of what you see around you, the beauty of nature, and what Creator gave us. Look up because there is the greatest gift you have. Take that breath, that’s another gift we have. Those elements that we use every day – the earth, the wind, the fire, the water – we rely on these things to survive. Truth and Reconciliation is so in depth, for so many different people and nations. Our seven generations have been directly impacted by this, and we aim to heal in time, and this is a good step,” he added.

Maracle will be attending the second annual Truth and Reconciliation Concert at the Picton Regent Theatre, Friday, Sept. 30, featuring iskwē with special guest Shawnee Kish. Maracle was invited by Alexandrea Seay of the Regent Theatre to recite his poem titled ‘Velvet Grounds’ to open the concert. He will have his Original in Stone entitled ‘SUNDANCE’ on display in the theatre for people to take a moment and reflect on the meaning of this creation.

SUNDANCE - original in Stone by David R. Maracle. Created from Buffalo skull, Buffalo bone, Buffalo hair, horns, deer leather, horse tail, antique seed beads, and red prayers ties.
Photo submitted by David R. Maracle.
“This piece I created shows how we relied on our four-legged brothers to sustain our existence, and that even though they tried to kill all the Buffalo to force the Indigenous peoples into submission by starvation, and force our children into residential schools, to kill the Indian in the child, the Indigenous peoples of the land were resilient and strong. They could not kill them off, nor the Buffalo. It’s a sacred hoop, a sacred circle and we are tied to it no matter what they try to do. We are still here. We are resilient. Like the Buffalo. Brothers forever.”

We will leave you with these powerful words. As we consider the work of truth and reconciliation, Base31 looks forward to growing our friendship and collaboration with the Indigenous community, including our neighbours in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Thank you to each person who attended the David R. Maracle and Friends Presents Digging Roots benefit concert. Base31 aims to continue support of the Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na Mohawk Language and Cultural Centre in their work to keep the Mohawk language alive. You can, too. 

Consider donating to the Initiative Campaign, to support TTO’s four major goals: 

  • To create speakers of Kanyen’ké:ha
  • To establish a permanent home for language and culture resurgence in Kenhtè:ke
  • To design a culturally informed learning complex for language and culture
  • To become self-sufficient

If you would like to support the TTO in a different way, please consider reaching out to Callie Hill, TTO Executive Director to discuss.