Kah' gii' ahyawat' omah

In 2014 the Ephemerals were invited to participate in the University of Manitoba symposium “Indigenizing the Campus through Art: Past and Future Perspectives”. The symposium aimed to explore “the role that art may play in amplifying the voices of indigenous people throughout our campus” and we were called upon to speak about our work at various university campuses. In an attempt to push ahead this bid to indigenize the University campus we created kah’gii ahyawat’ omah.

We considered the concept of what it means to 'Indigenize,' a campus or the academy with a colonial history and wanted to think of the land the campus currently resides on since before contact, to imagine the campus previously as camps kept by Indigenous ancestors. The conference was held in the Fine Arts building on Alumni road, so we thought about the word ‘Alumni’ and asked Elder Dr. Mary Courchene from Sagkeeng First Nation (Ephemerals member, Jaimie’s grandmother) to translate that concept into Anishinaabemowin (Objibwe language) and what she recommended was “Kah’gii ahyawat’ omah,”  which loosely translates to “those that were here before.” We fabricated a street sign and without asking permission we affixed our sign to cover the alumni street sign serving to honour those that were here before both alumni and ancestors. The act of re-naming, re-dressing and re-indigenizing the space and place was significant as an intervention and inquiry into a fraught notion of indigenizing land that is on Treaty 1 Territory. The sign enjoyed a couple months beyond our
intervention and then it was removed.

April 26, 2014
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, MB

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