A group of Muslim youth held an online fundraiser on Saturday, January 15th to support the Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo Elementary and Secondary School, a Gayoghno (Cayuga) and Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) language immersion school located on the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Southern Ontario.
“We are a group of Muslim youth working under the Muslim Indigenous Connection (MIC) and have taken the last couple of months to learn about Indigenous peoples and how we can connect with them while also learning how we can support them,” said the MIC youth organizers. “We have decided to hold a fundraiser to save the only indigenous immersion school.”
The first cohort of the Muslim Indigenous Connection (MIC) program was launched on September 30th, 2021. Currently, MIC participants are working on micro projects such as this fundraiser.
The youths are raising funds to support the Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo Elementary and Secondary School which has never had a building of its own and has been operating from the second floor of the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena for over a decade.
Speakers at the virtual event included Sherlene Bomberry from the Wolf clan, Cayuga nation of the Six Nations of the Grand River; Dawn Hill, a former residential school student of Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School in Branford and a retired elementary school teacher; and Muneeb Nasir, a Muslim community leader and Chair of the Olive Tree Foundation.
According to MIC, “the Muslim-Indigenous Connection is a unique discovery program which hopes to develop the knowledge of Muslim Canadian youth in inter-Religious Dialogue and social-justice knowledge, specifically concerning Indigenous social justice issues.”
Dawn Hill, a former residential school student of Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School spoke of how Indigenous Peoples were regarded by the early settlers.
“Indigenous peoples were always addressed as if we were children, that we needed a lot of direction,” she said. “However, if you read the history the early settlers would not have survived if it were not for the Indigenous peoples who had a lot of knowledge about their own environment.”
Muneeb Nasir encouraged the Muslim community to become more engaged with Indigenous communities and to build lasting relationships with them.
“The future of the Muslim community has to be in engaging with the Indigenous Peoples. Our sense of belonging is tied to our relationship to Indigenous Peoples, our Muslim Canadian identity is tied to our relationship to the Indigenous communities,” said Muneeb Nasir.
At the beginning of the event, MIC related a statement that pledges to create such meaningful relationships that Nasir encouraged, "We, the Muslim youth settlers attending the Muslim-Indigenous Connection program, pledge to create meaningful allyship with Indigenous brothers and sisters rooted in the Islamic principles of justice, compassion, and interconnectedness; We pledge to listen, to center, and to amplify the Indigenous voices; endeavouring to learn about their spiritual worldview and break down the colonial legacy of injustice and genocide that continues to impact communities; We pledge to stand and work with the diverse Indigenous Peoples to bring healing and peace with Truth and Reconciliation."