Today there was a ceremony in the foyer of the Yukon Government building, officially launching the Aboriginal Employees Forum, which was created to support aboriginal employees of the Yukon Government with peer support, leadership and networking. There were the usual speeches that one expects at these events, and a table of lovely-looking food that many people were eyeing. But the highlight of the ceremony, and the reason I am blogging about it, was the singing by local group Rising Sun.
The four members of the group come from four different First Nations, and the songs they sang also came from across the country. Now, I’ve been to quite a few powwows in Ontario, and a good number of drum dances in the Deh Cho; I’ve enjoyed them. But never have I been able to learn what the individual songs mean or what they’re about.
Lacey Scarf, who appears to be the youngest member of the band, charmingly introduced each of the four songs that were performed. The first was an Honour Song that is sung across the country and that was created by Ojibway women to uplift people’s spirits. Lacey said that it was, in a way, a national anthem for Aboriginal people in Canada, and the fact that there are no words to it allows it to speak to the Creator from the heart.
The group also performed a sweat song, a prayer to "take pity on me". Apparently, we should never pray for strength, because then the Creator will put lots of obstacles in our paths (which, of course will make us very strong). So, Lacey said, the song was a prayer asking the Creator to "take care of me in a kind and gentle way. Pleeeease! I don’t need no harsh lessons!"
Having the context of each song spelled out was somehow incredibly moving for me and made them much more meaningful. I was able to watch the performance with much more thoughtfulness. It really underlined for me how powerful cultural sharing can be — not just the performance aspect, but the teaching and learning, as well.