Ojigkwanong: The Name

On June 24th, 2013 a small group of Carleton staff, faculty and students hit the road to Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, packing tobacco and small gifts. At the time, construction was underway on Carleton’s new Indigenous centre—yet the name “Indigenous centre” didn’t seem to do the space justice.

We were going to Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg with the intention to ask Elders in the community to help us name our new space. Since Carleton University acknowledges its location on the traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin nation and Carleton has a close relationship with many community members in KZ, it seemed fitting to meet in KZ with Elders and community members to help us find the name.

We met in the Kitigan Zibi Cultural Centre, a beautiful building designed by renowned Indigenous architect, Douglas Cardinal, the same designer of Carleton’s yet unnamed Indigenous centre. We presented the Elders with tobacco, which is Anishinabe custom when requesting an Elder’s help or guidance on an issue, and they accepted it, indicating that they were willing to help.

We had a fulsome discussion, explaining what the Indigenous centre will look like and how students treat it as their “home away from home.” The Elders, in the Algonquin language, spoke about some of the words that could relate to an Indigenous space in an education institution.

Then Peter Decontie pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. He read out the name: “Ojigkwanong.” Ojigkwanong, which means “morning star,” was the late Grandfather William Commanda’s Anishinabe name. Peter, as well as the other Elders and community members, felt that this would be a meaningful name for our Indigenous centre and a fitting tribute to Grandfather William Commanda.

Ojigkwanong, Morning Star, means to us:

A new beginning. Many Indigenous students who come to Carleton don’t follow the typical path of entering university immediately after high school. Some students have faced numerous challenges in their lives leading up to becoming university students, and the morning star represents the strength of building upon that experience and beginning a new stage of life at Carleton.

Shining leadership. The morning star is the first to appear. Many Indigenous students are the first in their families to attend university. Indigenous students who come to Carleton work hard in their studies, and move on to successful careers as leaders for their people. An Indigenous student is ojigkwanong, a morning star.

Light. The morning star shines light onto the earth. Indigenous students attending Carleton, and all Indigenous students who are pursuing their education, represent the light for Indigenous peoples, communities and nations, and the hope for our future is bright.

Ojigkwanong: The Logo

Ojigkwanong Raster 2500

The overall theme of the design is connectedness. The namesake Ojigkwanong, William Commanda, is the primary thought that comes across with the centre. Following with Elder Commanda’s vision of the Circle of All Nations—where all people from all walks of life come together with one heart, mind, love, and determination—the logo is based on a circle.

Inside the circle are four basic elements: A braided tail of sweetgrass, the Morning Star, the Sky, Land and a Tree of Life.

The sweetgrass braid signifies the coming together of nations, the strength that we hold when working together. The ceremonial purpose of sweetgrass is also to create a clean, safe and healthy environment, which is the kind of atmosphere Ojigkwanong will provide its visitors.

The Morning Star is representative of William Commanda and his vision.

The sky and land must also be acknowledged along with the tree of life, which is representative of all knowledge, values and teachings of people.

All of these ideologies foster a healthy environment, where knowledge and education can be shared with everyone, regardless of age, gender or race.

Looking at specific design elements:

The lines on the left and right side of the circle are representative of Inuit people. The lines represent the Sun Dog. These lines appear to the left and right side of a low sun and are frequently used in Inuit art. It is a symbol identifiable to many Inuit people. It also can be interpreted as sound lines from a drum. Drums are representative of both Inuit and First Nations people.

The Morning Sun was created using dots to represent the beadwork Métis people are known for.

Several First Nations follow teachings and traditions that are deep rooted in respecting everything 7 generations before and after us. The sweetgrass has 7 braided parts to represent this. The morning star has 13 circles surrounding the star. It is representative of the 13 moons that is the traditional calendar year followed by First Nations people (and many others as well). These 13 moons affect the way the animals, plants, berries, and land interact with our environment and is the fundamental understanding needed to survive off the land.

The final aspect of the design is the physical structure of the centre. A main feature of architect Douglas Cardinal is the round edging and corners. The entire logo (except for the sun dog) is rounded, with no sharp edgy corners whatsoever. The theme behind this is interconnectivity. Everything is connected and there is a fluid energy to the way it is designed. The same lies with the logo and is a perfect representation of its physical form.

The Ojigkwanong logo was designed by Justus Polson-Lahache. Justus wrote the above description of the Ojigkwanong logo.

Justus is Anishinabe and Onkwehonwe living and working in Kahnawá:ke. He was raised in his father’s Anishinabe community of Winneway and later moved to Ottawa to further his education. Living away from home instilled a strong value of maintaining his traditions to ensure he never forgot his roots. His sense of pride, tradition and belief are key principle approaches taken throughout his visual work. Justus enjoys helping create a visual representation of his clients’ vision through graphic design and illustration. He is a firm believer in visual communication and aims to inspire by the amount of thought and feeling that goes into every piece.