One sunny Saturday in late August, a dozen motorcyclists gathered in the parking lot behind Scott Library, stopped for a smudge blessing and then set off together on a three-hour scenic ride around York Region. No, they weren’t Hell’s Angels.
They were participating in the first annual Iron Pony Ride to raise money for Calumet College’s new Aboriginal community partner, Anduhyaun Incorporated, which operates a women’s shelter and transition house in Toronto.
Left: Motorcyclists set out from York on an Iron Pony Ride to raise funds for Anduhyaun Inc.
“We were hoping for about 50 riders,” said David Leyton-Brown, master of York’s Calumet College. Though the turnout was small, the ride raised about $500, says Paula Putnam, director of the Anduhyaun shelter, who helped organize the event. Next year, she expects more participants at what will become an annual fundraiser.
Calumet College and Anduhyaun Incorporated formalized their partnership in March as part of Leyton-Brown’s efforts to revive the college’s distinctive identity. “Calumet” means “peace pipe” and was chosen as the college name to acknowledge and respect our Aboriginal heritage, he said.
In the early years, the college honoured its designation by offering courses and appointing fellows devoted to Aboriginal heritage. The first two powwows at York were held at Calumet. But over time, said Leyton-Brown, that Aboriginal focus waned. As college master, he decided to revive it. “We’re rekindling a flame that was allowed to go out,” he said.
Leyton-Brown rallied students and created committees to revive Calumet’s Aboriginal focus. Originally interested in forming a partnership with a native reserve, they were persuaded to seek urban Aboriginal partners instead.
The partnership with Calumet gives Anduhyaun Incorporated a platform to spread the word that violence against women is unacceptable, says executive director Blanche Meawassige. “It is our belief that in the circle of life, wanton spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, vocal abuse and violence is unacceptable, in particular violence against women. We believe that the young people of Calumet understand this and will carry this message forward to their friends, family and community,” she wrote in an e-mail to YFile.
“In a time of global fiscal restraint,” added Meawassige, Anduhyaun’s partnership with Calumet will also make it easier to raise much-needed funds.
Last year, they launched the first speakers’ series, focused on violence against Aboriginal women. This year, the second series will explore violence against women and other issues – residential schools, the need for clean water on reserves and native governance. Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, could be one of the speakers.
Above: Some of the Iron Pony Ride volunteers
Other events aimed at bringing together Calumet and Anduhyaun communities over the next year will include barbecues and cultural exchanges featuring music, dance and food.
Leyton-Brown is also exploring the potential for research projects involving Calumet and Anduhyaun partners.