The Mississauga Nation is launching a three-pronged initiative online to try and help revitalize culture, language and identity in its communities.
Sean Conway, who is a member of Curve Lake First Nation, is one of three community liaisons who have been working in the Mississauga communities over the last year.
The online initiative is the result of a series of surveys that were conducted within each First Nation with the goal of determining what was most important to community members.
“I think people want to be connected to culture, and that’s what they were telling us,” he said.
“I think this is a great first step for us in bringing together all of those elements and building on those connections.”
First is a cultural learning series with the help of local elders and knowledge keepers, then secondly a virtual workshop series of interactive group experiences that will range from historical storytelling to traditional arts like moccasin- and basket-making.
Thirdly, there will be illustrated flash cards and labels released once a month that feature Anishinaabemowin words in the Mississauga dialect.
Conway said he envisioned the cultural learning series as a travelling lecture series where a speaker would travel to each of the Mississauga Nations, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to pivot to an online platform.
Language revitalization an aim
Alderville, Curve Lake, Hiawatha, Mississauga, Mississaugas of the Credit and Mississaugas of Scugog Island are the six First Nations that make up the Mississauga Nation.
They’re part of the larger Anishinaabe Nation but have a shared history, culture, traditions, values, beliefs and language unique to the Mississauga.
“The language is a little bit the same but not the same; it’s a whole different dialect,” said Kim Muskratt.
Muskratt is the community liaison from Hiawatha First Nation and said when she got involved with the Mississauga Nation team that her strongest passion was language revitalization.
“We want to make sure we use that Mississauga language and we need to get back to our roots,” she said.
We need to get back to our roots.– Kim Muskratt
In 2016, the six Mississauga First Nations signed an accord where they agreed to re-establish the historic relationship and work to empower Mississauga people and to feel connected to each other.
Muskratt said she feels like she has limited time as the nation loses elders.
“I have to do this now because if not, it’s all going to be lost.”
Muskratt said when she was a child, her grandmother used to take her out to harvest medicines, but she wasn’t allowed to talk about it. Her father used to speak the Mississauga dialect of Anishinaabemowin, she said, but the children weren’t allowed to because the adults worried that they would be taken away by the Indian agent.
“One day I just said, ‘Enough.’ I need to start doing this for me for my healing,” she said.
“I hope that us doing this and putting that Mississauga language out — that it makes a big difference and that our people start embracing it.”