Downtown powwows keep the rez close at heart when far from home: Kabatay

After leaving her 350-person reserve in northern Ontario to Toronto for school, Jasmine Kabatay has found pieces of home in the big city.

The Canadian Aboriginal Festival held its 15th annual event at Toronto's Rogers Centre in 2008.

Torstar News Service

The Canadian Aboriginal Festival held its 15th annual event at Toronto's Rogers Centre in 2008.

I am a 23-year-old Ojibway woman from a 350-population First Nation about a 17-hour drive from Toronto. I left Seine River First Nation five years ago to study journalism at Humber College.

Moving from the rez to the city has changed my life completely.

I decided on school in Toronto because it was a place that would challenge me to get out of my comfort zone and experience something other than the rez.

It was a hard transition. I was homesick. I knew no other Indigenous person in the city from home, and I had no clue where I could go to meet other Indigenous people.

I went to the Aboriginal Resource Centre at my school after searching through the college website for services it offered Indigenous students. I met people there who welcomed me with open arms. With their help, I started to learn the ways of Indigenous city life, like where to get a good bannock burger and places like the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. But I also learned about the many other cultures and people who reside here.

Even though I have lived here since 2012, there isn’t a day where I don’t think about home. I miss my community and how peaceful it is. So I did what I could to keep the feeling of home close to me. I paid attention to powwows, workshops, festivals, and anything that had the vibe of home.

The Indigenous community in Toronto has been nothing but welcoming. Home will always be the rez, but finding a place and community in the city where you’re warmly welcomed has given me a new sense of belonging, and I’m not ready to let go of that feeling anytime soon.

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