St. Thomas Celebrates Aboriginal Day on Campus with John Barlow
St. Thomas University marked Aboriginal Day on campus June 22 with a demonstration of quill work, storytelling, drumming, a BBQ, and a book launch by an alumnus.
During the barbeque gathering, Tara Francis did a quill work demonstration and displayed her beautiful craft work in the lower courtyard, while the Muskrat Singers from St. Mary’s First Nation sang and drummed traditional songs.
Gwen Bear, Aboriginal Elder in Residence at neighbouring UNB, held a storytelling session in the Black Box Theatre, telling stories and singing songs about the Wolastoq River and her spiritual journeys. An alumnus from St. Thomas University, Bear is an educator, activist and spiritual leader.
Later in the day, John Barlow (BA ’04) launched his recently published play Inspiration Point.
Barlow spoke about how he came to write about the events that unfold in the play, saying many of the scenes, characters, and questions arose from his own experiences. The book is symbolic and politically charged, and speaks about life on a small Maritime reservation and the constant struggle for cultural survival. The central question being asked by the characters is ‘what does it mean to be Mi’kmaw.’
In the play, Paul, Joseph, and Peter are stranded at Inspiration Point. They argue about life on the reservation and the growing struggle of a community threatened by internal and external assimilationist forces. Poised between hope and despair, each man faces how best to move beyond the past and adapt to a future in which cultural legacy seems destined to diminish.
In the author’s ‘talk back’ session as part of the reading – a tradition at STU – Barlow spoke about the experience of having other people read, perform, and watch the play and how he came to terms with the world seeing into his thoughts and feelings. At first reticent about the play, he says he is now very proud of the work, which he wrote ten years ago.
Barlow studied English and Psychology at STU and was involved in a variety of campus activities including Theatre St. Thomas, Stompin’ Tommies Rugby and the Native Student lounge.
“Aboriginal Day is a celebration of the culture and beauty of the original peoples of this land. Tara, Gwen and The Muskrat Singers personified the beauty of our culture. John shared the reality of our current situation, and in his unique and humorous way showed that we as human beings have more in common than we think,” said Chris George, Director of Aboriginal Education Initiatives.
“I am happy to know these people and grateful that I am in the position at St. Thomas to facilitate events like this,” he added.