New Indigenous centre opens at Seneca
Odeyto comes to life in awakening ceremony
Odeyto, new home of First Peoples@Seneca, kicked off its awakening ceremony with a drumming performance at Newnham Campus on Sept. 21, featuring Mitchell George (left) Jimmy Dick and Gabe Dick.
As far as Alexandra Paul is concerned, Seneca’s new Indigenous centre at Newnham Campus is easily one of the nicest things she has ever been a part of.
“Personally, I’m not used to fancy things and this feels like a million dollars,” the second-year Early Childhood Education student said of Odeyto at the awakening ceremony on Friday, Sept. 21.
“It gives me a sense of Indigenous pride.”
Odeyto, the new home of First Peoples@Seneca, means “the good journey” in Anishinaabe.
The grand opening featured drumming, planting of a white pine — a tree of peace — and traditional Indigenous refreshments prepared by Anishinaabe chef Charles Catchpole.
Odeyto features a canoe-like structure resting on its side.
The $2.8-million project was made possible with contribution from the provincial government as part of its investment to honour the college system’s 50th anniversary.
President David Agnew thanked First Peoples@Seneca for being “incredibly patient,” saying the new space is a much-needed expansion to accommodate the important work of our staff and faculty supporting our Indigenous students.
“This is the jewel of the crown,” he said. “It’s what we wanted to put in the window.”
The curvature of the canoe-like structure mimics the position of the sun on June 21, the annual National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada.
On the outside, a canoe-like structure rests on its side against the academic building, representing a stop on the journey for the students. The curvature of the roof mimics the position of the sun on June 21, the annual National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada.
On the inside, 28 ribs along the top and the side of the flipped canoe reminisce the full lunar cycle and a woman’s moon time, honouring Indigenous women who are presently here. Two doors, facing east and west, are painted red to remember the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, said Mark Solomon, Associate Dean, Student Services and Indigenous Education.
“We do have to acknowledge the power of women,” Solomon said.
The 28 ribs inside Odeyto symbolize the full lunar cycle.
Solomon also recognized Odeyto as being “a form of reconciliation” in the ongoing truth and reconciliation process at Seneca. As the only Indigenous hub between Highway 401 and Barrie that is accessible to members within the broader Indigenous community, Odeyto has already welcomed elders and children alike in its first days.
“It’s been a community ever since,” Solomon said.
As an Indigenous teaching, learning and gathering space, Odeyto signifies not just the physical journey, but also the emotional, spiritual and mental journeys. The sentiment was described by seven Indigenous students who wrote a spoken word poem together for the awakening.
“Odeyto is incredible,” said Emma Greenfield, a fourth-year Honours Bachelor of Child Development student and one of the spoken word performers.
The computer lab inside Odeyto features a neon sign created by Cree visual artist Joi Arcand. The sign means “don’t be shy”.
“We have a space to not just gather — being in a small room before never stopped us — but being exposed to the cultural significance of the building every day gives us a sense of belonging at Seneca.”
As for Paul, while the newness of Odeyto seemed overwhelming at first and she felt a bit out of place, “once we sat down and had dinner together, it felt like home,” she said. “It’s the people you’re with that make it home, and this is a place of laughter. It’s a safe place.”
President David Agnew (centre) is pictured in front of Odeyto with Indigenous students Ian Brown (left), Ben Kicknosway, Hannah Jacko, Emma Greenfield, Alexandra Paul, Julie Miller-Clause (right, back) and Ashley George.
What is the longest journey you’ve ever taken?
I want you to take a moment to think about that question.
What the word “journey” means to you personally.
Was it a physical journey?
Was it a long journey through unfamiliar lands, coming across new faces, them too, journeying through to a new place. Watching the same sunrise from home rising in an unfamiliar world. Connecting to land by physically feeling our feet grounded in earth. Was it a journey of nourishment of the body…feeding our spirit with the foods of this territory? Perhaps, it was a long journey…the body tired from the physical voyage but warm and ready for new adventure.
— by Emma Greenfield
Was it an emotional journey?
A test of will and determination? Being faced with adversity and facing it back with strength and resilience. Being confronted by feelings of sorrow and grief but confronting them with courage. Was it a journey of finding your truth and honouring that truth no matter how challenging it may be?
— by James Crittenden
Was it a spiritual journey?
Tracing the stories of your ancestors on ancient trails both seen and unseen. Perhaps in seeking the guidance of elders and other knowledge holders, you have been helped along our journey. Was it a journey in connecting with your spirit so that you could have vision and clarity?
— by Ian Brown
Was it a mental journey?
Was it a journey through time with all of your life teachers? Perhaps, you use their loving wisdom to get you through your journey more than they even know. Was it a journey through your memories…reflecting on what has been for seven generations and what will be for the next seven?
— by Ben Kicknosway
Perhaps, your journey has been a simple trip to the mailbox to see if you’ve been accepted into the program you applied for. A new educational endeavour in an unfamiliar place seems daunting but upon arrival to this new place…you find an open door to a community of smiling faces. This place welcomes you and becomes a home away from home.
— by Ashley George
I ask you these questions so that you may honour those journeys…those long and sometimes difficult journeys…those beautiful, eye-opening journeys…and how they brought you here today…so that our journeys, our paths, cross. Each of our journeys, unique…but today we gather so that our minds can become one.
— by Hannah Jacko
All of our journeys have come; together to strengthen this community so that we can always greet this day, together, in a good way.
— by Alexandra Paul