The 2016 Great Moon Gathering at Northern College, Timmins Campus, is the 25thAnnual coming-together of community educators. Dr. Shirley Cheechoo’s keynote address focuses on her experience in the educational environment. “Half a century ago, there were no Indigenous teachers in the education system in Canada. Our teaching came to us by way of our elders, in our homes, long houses, and in nature. So it was not by chance that I began my journey as an educator.”
Dr. Cheechoo touches on the experience gained educating the youth of Manitoulin Island, through founding and serving as the Artistic director of Weengushk Film Institute. She encourages educators to help youth follow their dreams, and find the kind of career that speaks to them. “We have to get past this stage of being victims and move towards creating solutions that would help us to be more constructive, and lead more sustainable, happy, and successful lives.” Dr. Cheechoo speaks of self-sustainability through art, and a responsibility to the youth. “We cannot wait for the next generation. We are responsible, and we have the opportunity to make change.” Dr. Cheechoo highlights some of the ways this change could transpire, saying “there needs to be a program on growth mindset training for all our young people, and this will make change in our young people’s lives, and this will make change in our communities.”
The gathering is a place for these kinds of perspectives to intersect, and Dr. Shirley Cheechoo reflects on where she started, and where she is today. “I took on this Chancellor position at Brock University to make a difference and I will try to move beyond old racial wounds…We must embrace the weight we carry of the past and stop being victims of it. I’m not saying we should forget, but to let go and move onward together.” Dr. Cheechoo encourages youth and educators alike to “follow the ring of the drum in your communities, and follow your dreams. You will be known in this time and place for the tracks you leave behind. It’s all up to you.” With her experience in art and in education, Dr. Shirley Cheechoo’s words are welcomed by many. Her efforts and words are applauded by the community of educators, as they stand at the completion of her address.