LONDON—This spectacular event, a one-time only occasion, was held at the Thames Valley District School Board, celebrated with meet and greet opportunities, a roast beef dinner, door prizes, and topped off with the comedy of Don Burnstick.
Ron Hill, Cultural Coordinator, opened the evening event by offering a Thanksgiving Prayer in the Oneida language, and translated the meaning of his words to English for the benefit of those who did not understand. The audience was mixed, as those invited to this anniversary dinner were chosen from the partnerships formed with other organizations in the city including: Thames Valley District School Board; Nokee Kwe Employment and Education Centre; Atlohsa Native Family Healing Services; City of London; United Way; Pillar Non-profit Networking; Tecumseh Community Development Corporation; Children’s Aid Society; and community members, as well as previous and present staff and board members of N’Amerind.
Brian Hill, Eagle Staff Carrier and former president of N’Amerind, had the role of emcee, greeting guests and introducing the speakers. His message carried the pride of being involved with the Centre for over 20 years, marking 50 years of friendship and providing services to Indigenous members of the community.
Al Day, Executive Director of N’Amerind, spoke of his involvement at the Centre; after retirement he was asked if he would volunteer some of his time to fill in as Acting Director. He gave this some thought and accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history. He also thanked the guests in attendance for coming together to share the evening and being a part of this momentous celebration.
Susan Barberstock, representing the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, brought their congratulations and their pride in supporting N’Amerind among the large number of friendship centres in Ontario under the auspices of the Federation.
Maureen Cassidy, Deputy Mayor of the City of London, brought congratulations from the Mayor’s office and spoke passionately about how much she had recently learned about the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada regarding the residential school survivors, the sixties scoop, the missing and murdered women, and the impact this new knowledge had on her at a personal level.
Donna Phillips, President of N’Amerind Friendship Centre, received special acknowledgement as she received the Dorothy Day Learning Centre Award for her years of service to the community. Donna is a daughter of the late Dorothy Day; she shared with the listeners about some of the life they lived with their mother, such as not being taught their language due to possible repercussions such as those the residential school students endured (Dorothy Day was one of the many children). The family moved away from the reserve life to safeguard the children from being “scooped”, and to give them the opportunity for a better education.
During dinner, a slideshow of clips of N`Amerind’s past and present day highlights was showcased while guests enjoyed their meals.
Little introduction was needed to announce the comedy of Don Burnstick! His first mission was to describe, for all in the mixed audience, what constitutes Native humor as opposed to non-Native humor, quickly agreed to by most if not everyone—using his own experiences and observances. His method of bringing people together, sharing the same page, putting their own differences aside, and finding the funny in their common everyday life, brought his captive audience to a new perspective. They laughed until tears started to flow and, all too soon, it was over.