A few months ago, I lost my dear friend Myriam to leukemia. Myriam was a young Montreal born Arab Moroccan, married to Stephane, another Montreal born, Jewish Moroccan. Their relationship caused some strain among family members while her death brought them together, oh, the irony. Myriam died this summer while I was doing Native Immigrant in Kahnawake and tensions in Montreal over Israeli-Palestinian conflicts increased. Witnessing Arabs and Jews (or what we perceive as such for they would probably call themselves something else) behave with such dignity and mutual respect during Myriam’s funeral profoundly inspired me. In the spirit of groups such as Jews & Arabs Refuse To Be Enemies I thought that to co-create a dress in her memory would not only provide Myriam with a befitting legacy but it would also be a consequent next chapter for Native Immigrant - N.I. seeks to design a new collective identity in which we unite via our differences and connection to the land. Our goal is to bridge Immigrants to First Nations and inspire love for the land.
When Myriam died we were doing our event in Kahnawake where we learned of the Condolence Ceremony - Woods’ Edge – “Long before the arrival of the Europeans to Anowara:kowa (Turtle Island or “America”) the Iroquois had established rituals to welcome individuals and groups to their territory… In summation, the Edge of Woods was designed to respond to those who were not of the Confederacy, the “other ones” who entered Iroquois sought to determine their intent while welcoming the migrant to their lands. They did so through music, the sharing of food, the giving of shelter and by relieving the fears of the visitor (http://blog.syracuse.com/opinion/2013/08/two_row_wampum_edge_of_the_woo.html). The most important aspect of this ceremony, for me, was the concept of leaving your ‘baggage’ at the woods’ edge, not to enter the community with past conflict because we need to preserve the local peace. I imagine a migrant ritual in which newcomers are greeted with a Condolence Ceremony, their woes and sufferings are heard and validated and then left at the edge so we enter the community light and free. I usually wonder why as immigrants we continue to bring the issues we left behind back on the local table. How does this solve anything? If not just divide those who came here to start new and live in peace. Our immigrant diversity leaves us with no common rituals to share when rites of passage arise.