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Second annual Miywâcimo! Storytelling Competition celebrates Indigenous student research at Concordia

Competitors Emilio Wawatie and Autumn Godwin received top prizes for their distinctive approaches to linguistic and cultural revitalization
April 20, 2023

Student presenting in front of panel and audience The competition was created as part of the university’s effort to support Indigenous research and funding opportunities for Indigenous students.

Miywâcimo is a nēhiyawēwin (Cree) word meaning “tell a good story.” On March 30, several competitors did just that at the second annual Miywâcimo! Indigenous Directions Storytellers Competition, hosted by Concordia’s Office of Indigenous Directions in collaboration with 4TH SPACE.

The competition was created as part of the university’s effort to support Indigenous research and funding opportunities for Indigenous students. Participants receive financial support to prepare their presentations as well as a platform to highlight the importance of their research projects. Eligible projects foreground Indigenous values and knowledge systems and seek to benefit Indigenous communities.

This year, the $5,000 first prize went to Emilio Wawatie, an Algonquin-Anishinaabe undergraduate student with a double major in First Peoples Studies and Music. Autumn Godwin, BA 22, is a nehithaw (Woodland Cree) graduate student in the Individualized Program. She took home the second-place prize of $2,500.

The financial awards are intended to help students to complete their research and support them through their studies.

“This storytelling competition is a great platform for us as Indigenous researchers and students to be able to have our voices heard and our work seen through a larger lens by the outside world,” says Wawatie. “Winning our respective prizes not only validates the importance of the work that both Autumn and I are doing. The prizes also help to support us as Indigenous students with financial stability and the opportunity to invest in our projects and work.”

Male student receiving award on stage Emilio Wawatie, an Algonquin-Anishinaabe undergraduate student with a double major in First Peoples Studies and Music, was this year's winner.

Stories showcase revitalization, perserverance

Participating students had just four minutes to compete in front of an audience and a panel of judges. This year’s panel of Concordia professors and Indigenous community members included Bimadoshka Pucan, Ronald Abraira, and Anne Whitelaw, provost and vice-president, academic.

Pucan says Miywâcimo! is her favourite annual event at Concordia, as the presentation of Indigenous research via storytelling reflects the unique and diverse communities the researchers come from. She also noted that selecting the winner was extremely difficult, as both Wawatie and Godwin’s presentations were impactful and engaging.

“Both presenters shared how their work is interrupting colonization by working to revitalize intergenerational knowledge transmission within and across Indigenous groups,” says Pucan. “The researchers’ work is integral to changing longstanding notions of Indigenous peoples that position First Peoples as victims of history as opposed to resilient and adaptive nations that have withstood the heavy hand of colonization and persevered.”

Resurgence and repair on the land

Wawatie is from Kitigan Zibi and Barrier Lake, QC. His presentation, “Anishinaabe Nikamowin – The Revitalization of Anishinaabemowin Through Songs,” focuses on his research on Anishinaabe language resurgence through traditional music and land-based education.

Godwin’s presentation, “The Land is Calling You Home,” details the knowledge she has gained by connecting with her home and community of Montreal Lake Cree Nation on Treaty 6 territory (Northern Saskatchewan).

She says her family history, which includes experiences of colonial violence and abuse, informs her research. For Godwin, research is a way to combat Indigenous peoples’ alienation from their communities, languages, and cultural practices. It’s also a means to mend the rupture in knowledge transmission within Indigenous communities.

“I needed to do my work on the land so that I could be reminded that we have our own self-governance, natural laws, and languages that are still practiced and maintained in today’s world,” Godwin shares. “It’s important, especially within academic spaces, to centre our stories around the lived experiences of those [who came] before us. I do this work so that my children can travel the path with more opportunity and fewer roadblocks.”

Female student hugging faculty member Autumn Godwin, graduate student in the Individualized Program, took home the second-place prize.

Fuelling the future of Indigenous Research

Following their presentations, the researchers were commended for the distinctive approaches they brought to their stories. Godwin draped a blanket across her shoulders as she spoke, symbolizing a reconnection to her culture. Wawatie incorporated musical elements, including homemade instruments.

“Autumn used her body as a canvas to situate her research, and Emilio's gifted musical abilities pulled deep-seated memories into the present. Both brought the past into the present to fuel our future,” says Pucan.

“Indigenous Research is research that is done by us, for us, and that is exactly what our gifted storytellers presented at Miywâcimo!”

To learn more about Miywâcimo!, detailed information can be found on the competition's web page. A recording of the 2023 competition’s livestream is available on the 4TH SPACE YouTube channel.

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