Children from Montreal’s École FACE celebrate the Magtogoek

Children from Montreal’s École FACE celebrate the Magtogoek

Postby Oscar » Fri Jun 16, 2017 7:45 pm

Children from Montreal’s École FACE celebrate the Magtogoek River

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June 16, 2017 - 5:00 pm

I made a last minute decision to make a quick trip to Montreal from Ottawa because Divya, my eight-year-old niece, was excited about her year-end school performance at École Face. Divya felt I would be interested in this year’s water-themed show as someone who works on water policy issues, but of course my main motivation was that of a proud aunt. I was nonetheless quite impressed by the content of the show.

In the show titled “Magtogoek, le fleuve aux grandes eaux” or “Magatogoek, the Mighty River”, children from grades 1 to 4 narrated the history of the 1, 197 kilometre river that flows from Lake Ontario to the Gulf of St-Lawrence. Myriam Blouin, their music teacher and mastermind behind the production, opened with the statement “Montreal is not 375 years. This land had a long history preceding the arrival of Europeans.” The musical performance began with the Iroquois villages of the 14th century. Throughout the show, the river was referred by its original name, Magatogoek instead of the St-Lawrence River.

Through music, theatre and handmade props, the children conveyed the history of dispossession that began with colonialism, followed by the industrial revolution and pollution from the pulp and paper and various other industries that have settled along the river. The ecological and anti-colonial theme also included a few lighter moments when the children sang happy songs about their love for watersheds.

I was pleased to see a simple school show that captures the reality that environmental problems in Canada cannot be divorced from the colonial context in which they are produced. The performance at FACE demonstrated how children as young as grade 1 could be taught to be critical of dominant narratives.

Myriam Blouin says she hopes the Magatogoek will someday be officially recognized by its original name. I offered to help.

Meera Karunananthan's blog
Water campaigner for the Blue Planet Project.
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