Sunday, August 3, 2014

On the bus to Sagkeeng I looked up and saw a Kurdish man's hat...

A few weeks ago I and my CPT colleague, Peter Haresnape, were invited to join a day away to the First Nation community of Sagkeeng. The main participants of the trip were some of the members of a Genocide scholars conference being held in Winnipeg.

Peter and I made the 730 am deadline to meet the bus and sat and waited for it to fill up. I looked up from my early morning daze  and saw a very familiar head covering, a black and white cap with  a black and white scarf coiled around it. I wracked my brain- did I know of any other culture that might wear such a distinctive cap? As another man joined him with a Kurdish flag wrapped around his shoulders my thoughts were confirmed. By the time the bus headed out for the highway there were 6 Kurdish men on my bus. (along with scholars from many other  countries).

I knew that I had to make contact (and let them know that I was understanding a bit of what they were saying). After a short conversation in Sorani Kurdish I was given three books in English about the Anfal as well as the Darsim Massacre in Turkey (1937-38). The men belonged to a coalition from the capital city, Hawler/Erbil, including the organisation, Kurdistan Without Genocide.

Peter took a photo as I went to speak to one of the men. The man with the flag
 around his neck is up ahead of us.

Two parts of my world collided (I live 6 months per year in Winnipeg and 6 months in Iraqi Kurdistan). I couldn't help thinking about the similarities between the histories of colonisation for the indigenous peoples in Canada and the indigenous peoples of Kurdistan.
-both had boundaries and borders imposed upon them
-both have had the languages and cultural practises and spirituality condemned and banned
-both have been forced out of their traditional lands and into collective towns/reserves.
-both have endured extermination of thousands of their people by fast and slow genocide.
-both live in resource rich lands--but many of their people ask to retain the treasure of what is beautiful and natural and pure: the water, the plants, the trees, the subsistence agriculture.
-they are both resilient people who are reclaiming what makes them First Nations and Kurds.

As we entered the grounds of Turtle Lodge at Sagkeeng First Nation, the Kurdish men posed for a photo with the flag. Diem who had invited us on this trip is on the left of the photo.

As part of the pipe ceremony we took small pouches of tobacco to tie on a tree. Here is one of the Kurdish men beside Norman Meade who wears the symbol of the Metis Nation.

Turtle Lodge and the tobacco ties on the tree.

As the drummers sang the closing song I saw the Kurdish men tapping their feet 
ready to break into dance. 

After a meal of traditional  stew, wild rice and blueberry cake we all received gifts: a braid 
of sweet grass and a small drum with a turtle painted on it.

Below is a  TV news report of the day by APTN news station.

Genocide scholars visit Sagkeeng First Nation to talk residential schools

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