by Amber Buchanan
I just spent five days in Mabou for the second annual Nova Scotia Gaels Jam with 13 other Gaelic youth between the ages of 19 and 41 and one East Indian/American Jam facilitator. The energy was amazing. It was uplifting and invigorating and I can personally say I’ve returned home with a renewed sense of pride, encouragement and support from my fellow Gaels. I see the event as being crucial in addressing and healing the effects of colonization, internal and otherwise, as well as the struggle Gaels face living in an imperialistic, capitalist society with a deep heartfelt desire to honour and embody their traditional ways.
Throughout the five days we looked at our personal stories as well as our collective story by drawing out a timeline of important historical events as well as influential individuals as far back as we can remember to the present day. We also spent time doing a short visualization of the future of Gaelic. Half of our group drew what they envisioned for the future of Gaelic on flip chart paper where the other half created a visual piece of where were are today in the Gaelic community. Together, we all drew the steps that stood between our present day community and a future where Gaelic is flourishing, we live more sustainably, growing our own food and using renewal energy sources and we have the time the visit each other.
The Gaels Jam also took time and space to look at where we felt connected to each other and where there are divides and conflicts. We spent time practicing dealing with conflicts through deep listening and mirroring, a technique where after hearing everything a person has to say, the listener repeats everything they’ve heard back to the speaker. The effect had people not only feeling heard, but understood, acknowledged and respected. We looked at our own reactions to stress and fear, not in hopes of one day no longer reacting, but to become more conscious of our reactions, how they hold us back and how we can approach them with softness and compassion bringing us to a place of where conflicts, internal or external, can be resolved.
Many people ask me, “So, what are the outcomes of the Jam anyway?”. While there are actually tangible projects and project ideas that have arisen from the last two Jams, I look less toward those as markers of success. What I see are deep, lasting bonds forming between participants. I see understanding, compassion, healing, love, and respect for one another as well as a commitment to embody those throughout the year. I see this event growing each year and we are excited to announce that next years Gaels Jam will be intergenerational.
And for those of you who are still asking, “Isn’t Gaelic a dead language?” The answer is – No! I speak Gaelic to my four-year-old daughter at home. I’ve taught Gaelic all over the island for the last six years. I’ve worked at the Gaelic College teaching Gaelic preschool and on the hill at the Highland Village singing Gaelic songs and telling Gaelic stories. I’m currently mentoring two Sydney youth to advance their language skills and they, the future of our people, are lively, fiery, dedicated and fun! For those of you who say, “You’ll never find work with Gaelic”, you are wrong. I’ve held many different positions over the years to do with teaching and speaking Gaelic, and I’ve often had to turn work down because I couldn’t do it all!
Suas leis a’ Ghàidhlig!