International genocide scholars visit Turtle Lodge

Posted in: News
Turtle Lodge hosted the first day of the 2014 conference for the International Association of Genocide Scholars on July 16, 2014.  Canada denied our voice and silenced us as a people. “Kii-ah-go-naa” – the burying of a people and their identity through imposition and legislation – is the word we use to describe our historical and ongoing experience in the Anishnabe language. The Grandmother Turtle brought in People from all over the world to hear the Message of our People – which is a Message of Peace. “Our excursion to Turtle Lodge on the Sagkeeng Nation will be the first highlight. One hundred of our scholars will go by bus to Sagkeeng on Wednesday, stopping first at the cemetery where residential school Survivor Theodore Fontaine will tell us a little about some of the people who are buried there. Next, we will spend a day at Turtle Lodge, where Elder David Courchene and others will introduce us to aspects of Anishinaabe culture as a living and active resource for Sagkeeng healing and resistance. We wanted an event that would focus not only on destruction, but also on the resilience of Indigenous communities.” — Conference organizer and University of Manitoba sociologist Andrew Woolford
Reflections on International Association of Genocide Scholars’ Turtle Lodge Experience
I am absolutely certain that the knowledge, history and spirit that the Sagkeeng people have must be warmly welcomed by the whole world in general and Canadian authorities in particular. Sagkeeng people should have their voices heard at local, national and international level. No government and no political system is in position to impose its myopic decisions on these amazing people of rich cultural and historical heritage. As a former participant in the Council of Europe’s Youth Peace Ambassadors project, I hereby confirm my commitment and solidarity with the Sagkeeng First Nation and promise to provide my sound inputs in the development of their community. I can be contacted by any of Sagkeeng community people any time. Thanks.
Vahram Ayvazyan, Independent Scholar, Armenia

Could you please pass on my appreciation for the inspiring hospitality accorded us by all at Turtle Lodge. The generosity of all involved, those who spoke, those who drummed, those who sang and danced, those who cooked for us, will remain among my warmest memories brought back to Australia. My gifts of sweetgrass, tobacco, and art work are beside me on a wintry day. The enduring resilience of First Nations peoples is one of the most powerful messages of the conference. Sadly, as I perhaps indicated in my address, there is no equivalent opportunity here for such encounters. The direct link with First Nations have almost all been broken. I was pleased to find, only today, that my university is attempting to make the most of the rare opportunity we have. It is an overdue recognition but an important sign of the increasing importance accorded to First Peoples everywhere. Again my thanks, and warmest greetings from Melbourne, Australia.
Tony Barta, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

I admit that I had only a vague idea about the history of the First Nation in Canada. The visit to the Turtle Lodge was an eye-opener for me. In that emotionally and spiritually charged atmosphere I learned a lot about the history, the life, the traditions of your people and most importantly about the harrowing experience of your nation’s children in the residential schools. Listening to memories spoken in such warm and candid words I could not help but visualize my own people, the orphans of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, in the Turkish “orphanages” centers of brutal Islamization and Turkification, being tortured every night for their sins, for speaking Armenian instead of Turkish, for refusing to pray to the God of Islam, for crying loud and calling their dead mothers. How the world is cruel, how people are persecuted for being different for not fitting in the pattern that the perpetrators with soft facades have planned for you. I appreciate the resilience of your people, the will to survive, and the struggle that has finally made the Canadian government to admit their wrongdoing and apologize. Would I see the Turkish government do that noble deed one day?
Rubina Peroomian, University of California, Los Angeles

Thank you so much for welcoming us into your territory and your lodge. Our day at Turtle Lodge was a crucial part of the genocide conference. It served to ground our research and discussions in the land and traditions and to remind us of the human face and spiritual side of our research and concerns. I appreciate the openness of those who chose to speak with us and will cherish the gifts you gave me for a long time.
Menachem Freedman, Montreal Holocaust Museum Centre

My most heartfelt thanks to the cooks, speakers, leaders, community members, women, children and men who made the day at the Turtle Lodge so special to me. I was moved by the strength of the spiritual power of the place and it was great to see how proud the speakers are of their Lodge and of the community. I felt like on that day we received many gifts — not only the incredibly generous gifts of the tobacco bundle and small shield — but also the gift of teachings and the gift of extended friendship. I felt called upon to do right by the generosity shown by community members throughout the conference. That day will be with me forever and will influence how I think and work in my area. I was blown away by the kindness shown to us, and I only hope to extend that kindness beyond myself.
Karen McCallum, University of London

Thanks a lot. The Turtle Lodge excursion reminded me of the importance of ceremony and ritual in teaching us certain responsibilities we as humans need to exercise towards the sustenance of the planet. Interestingly, I was already mid way in my reading of Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel, CEREMONY, before the visit. Ceremony and ritual are one mechanism with which we can work through certain past and present traumas and injustices. We only need to find the adequate ceremony and ritual. I’m grateful to the IAGS organisers and the people at the Turtle Lodge for that insightful, spiritual session. Thanks again.
Arthur Anyaduba, University of Manitoba

We share your pain .. deserve a better life .. We all deserve a decent life .. convey what happened from genocide on your people to our people in Kurdistan, which hit Masapkm of Genocide (Anfal), and we are working hard to stop all kinds of these practices and in solidarity with your people for a better future ..
Hendren Ahmed, Taha Suleman, and Sdiq Kareem, Kurdistan Regional Government

The warm hospitality and welcome we received at Turtle Lodge was wonderful. What we learned there only reinforced a fact that I have known ever since I studied Native American cultures in graduate school: It was the native Americans who were civilized, not the Europeans who took their lands and killed so many of them. As a descendent of those Europeans, I can only say how sorry I am for the ignorance and malevolence of my ancestors. I hope Americans and Canadians will come to appreciate the wisdom of the native Americans, and will adopt their respect for life, for nature, and for the spiritual value of every being.
Greg Stanton, Genocide Watch; George Mason University

I am so thankful to the Sagkeeng nation for welcoming us on their land and to Turtle Lodge. I value the opportunity we were given to meet a people who have suffered incredible atrocities and persevered against all odds. Thank you for sharing with us your teaching and your wisdom. It was a beautiful and inspiring experience.
Sara Brown, Clark University, Massachusetts

I was moved by the welcoming and generous spirit of the Anishinabe people at Turtle Lodge. The world needs their gift of knowledge of Turtle Island.
Jeff Ostler, University of Oregon

I’m pleased to communicate my gratitude to Turtle Lodge  For me the experience resonated on a personal and professional way – as an teacher and emerging scholar, the ceremonies and talks helped me to consider how to incorporate indigenous methods into my own pedagogical practices (REALLY important for my relatively-conformist cohort of teacher educator students!). On a more spiritual level, the attention paid to compassion, care for ourselves and others, and our custodianship of the environment, were an antidote and a source of hope given the difficult world events which were ongoing during the conference (not to mention those spoken about in considering our ‘pasts’). I am really grateful to the Sagkeeng people for initiating the conference and encouraging a mindfulness that helped me form friendships, sustain criticality and reconsider my own conduct in terms of being more responsive to, and responsible for, others. Best wishes!
Susan Henderson, University of West-Scotland

To Elder Courchene & the Turtle Lodge Sagkeeng First Nation Community — I want to thank all those involved in preparing and delivering the welcome of last week at Turtle Lodge for scholars participating in the IAGS Conference. I was moved by the generosity of the teachings, rituals, and gifts provided. The teachings I take away from Elder Courchene’s talk include: survival through ritual; thinking from the heart; no longer wasting energy on perpetrators of harm, and as he stated, “disengaging from institutions in order to engage spirit.” As an academic and writer working in institutions of higher learning for two decades, and as Caribbean woman of color of part-native descent (Taino/Arawak), the teachings, followed by the ritual cleansing, healing, offering resonated. The heart is a drum, and I am thankful for the performers who helped us to connect word with spirit, and for the gifts provided at the end of the day. I will treasure the keepsake, commemorative drum, make use of the sweetgrass, and release the tobacco, as instructed, in local waters when I return home. Many thanks for your endurance, your grace, and for your leadership by example.
Myriam J. A. Chancy, Professor of English/Africana Studies, 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, Cincinnati, OH 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow, PMLA; Fetzer Institute

There are no comments published yet.

Leave a Comment

Welcome back to the Turtle Lodge!
If you have trouble signing in, please send an email to