The drums filled the wooden longhouse with historic sounds as the assembled voices took to song. The visitor from Venezuela fit right in with the clan members in attendance as he sang along with the songs of his newly-found friends. A sense of unity was in the air.
Wilmer Barrientos is on a tour. The retired Venezuelan general is the newly-appointed political representative to Canada. He is also on a self-appointed mission to learn about the commonalities that exist between First Nation peoples here and his own South American heritage. His visit to Six Nations territory (near Ontario, Canada) on April attracted the presence of no less than six clan mothers this evening.
A longhouse member, who asked to remain anonymous for the meeting coverage, described it this way: “He came here to open up a new line of communication. The international recognition of the longhouse ways are always nice. The real emphasis is on follow-thru and continuance. A social dance and meal took place. The Ambassador came with 25 of his own people, added to our 100. He sat and sang with us. It was a tremendous feeling that we all were left with. We exchanged gifts and we stayed a long time.”
The Venezuelan embassy building in Canada itself is immaculately kept, but demure’ in its appearance. Many suburban Ottawa residents live far more lavishly than this petroleum giant’s symbolic footprint here. The adage that all politics are local is not lost on the image-conscious embassy staff; the mission status has been in limbo for several years. A dispute with the Canadian government has left the political relationship adrift during that same period of time.
Courtesy Janie Jamieson Cook
Venezuelan Ambassador to Canada Wilmer Barrientos with a young clan member during a drum session.
Ambassador/representative Barrientos comes to North America with hefty political clout moving into his first diplomatic posting. He has recently retired as the operational head of the Venezuelan armed forces. His rising star was attached to the lifelong personal alliance that Barrientos forged with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The implicit gravity of his portfolio should not be discounted by the relative population of the country of Canada. He is a skilled political operator working on the threshold of the world’s leading superpower.
Through iron-clad personal contacts, Barrientos has found himself here in the heartland of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) territory near Toronto. “It’s all our land, no matter the fading lines…,” said another longhouse member who attended the Ambassador’s reception at the longhouse. A similar sense of purpose seemed to be in the air. The translated words often included the mention of brothers and sisters.
Six Nations clan member and photographer Janie Jamieson Cook attended the meeting, filming the meal and events. She recalled the feeling that stayed with her throughout the assembly. “Our people need to realize that our time is now. Our ancestors fought hard to maintain our existence. Our youngest ones today are learning our languages, tradition and ceremony to continue the existence of life. Plant, water, animal and human existence is all relevant. It is a great challenge that we need to rise up to. Original people worldwide are born into that great understanding and responsibility.”
Barrientos, at the Iroquois longhouse, respectfully spoke to the assembled participants. He could have referenced the hardships that his country’s people have felt as a result of the economic sanctions by the United States. What he saw from the Iroquois longhouse people may have bolstered his respect for their own modest cultural existence. In the future following this unique meeting, the reasons to work together seemed evermore clear. The first chapter has only begun to be written.
The Venezuelan Embassy was contacted for comment on the meeting but no response was received by publication time by ICTMN. Further updates will be made available in the future.