Indigenous History Celebration at Putman Family YWCA brings new neighbours together

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When Barbie Scott drums, she puts her bare feet on the ground.

“The drum is Mother Earth’s heartbeat,” says Barbie, who is Kanesatake Mohawk. “When I’m drumming, I have my feet on the ground so I’m connected to her.”

Drumming is one of the traditions that Barbie has reconnected with in recent years – traditions that were stolen from her when she was forced to leave her home to attend residential school at age six.

Now, she is passing on her new knowledge about her culture to her new neighbours at the Putman Family YWCA.

Barbie, who moved into the state-of-the-art new housing facility on Ottawa Street this year, was the host, organizer, and master chef behind Putman’s first annual Indigenous History Month celebration. The event was open for all tenants of the Putman Family YWCA, Hamilton’s first affordable housing residence for women and their children.

Barbie says she was inspired to organize the event during Indigenous History Month to help share her culture and background with her new neighbours.

“I’m hoping they learn who and what we are, and what we’re about, and learn that we had a lot taken from us,” she said.

The event opened with a drumming circle, led by Barbie and Christina Barahona, and employee at the HRIC. Christina has supported Barbie for almost a decade, including passing on the Indigenous teachings and traditions that Barbie never had a chance to learn as a child.

“For the last five or ten years, I’ve been learning about who and what I am,” Barnie told her neighbours, with her partner and support dog, Bella, by her side. “I have learned so much from these two people – from my partner, and from Christina.”

Barbie also cooked all of the food for the event – chilli over fried bread with all of the taco fixings, and cake for dessert – and coordinated an art display in the lobby, including her residential school survivor quilt.

Barbie said it was very meaningful to share the story with the other residents of her new home.

“It makes me feel very happy,” she said. “I’m very happy to share and show who I am.”

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