Citizen Action
February 20th, 2020

The Great Peace of Montréal, as told through poetry by young people

The Great Peace of Montréal, as told through poetry by young people

Pointe-à-Callière is continuing its civic action and its work with young people with the release of a second collection of creative writing entitled Nous sommes Montréal. The inclusive and collective 2020 edition gives a voice to 50 young people for whom French is not a first language, allowing them to express themselves through poetry while learning about the history of Montréal. In addition to offering a positive and enriching creative experience, the project gives young people an opportunity to learn, experiment with, and discover the use of French from a fresh perspective.

Piloted by Pointe-à-Callière, Nous sommes Montréal is a true collaborative effort between the Museum, poet and novelist Karim Akouche, and students from three high school classes, under the supervision of their teachers: Philippe Couture from Marguerite-De Lajemmerais High School, as well as Isabelle Bujold and Yasmine Carling from Anjou High School.

The Great Peace of 1701
The first part of the work consists of three group poems—one from each class. The poems were created after a tour of Pointe-à-Callière led by the Museum’s interpreter-guides, who provided some historical background on the Great Peace of Montréal in 1701. Based on a narrative, the students created a lyrical song describing the major steps in this key event that brought an end to the long war between the French, their native allies, and the Iroquois nations.

Combining images and words, the students also created their own totemic signatures, illustrating an animal to represent them, which they used to sign the poems in the second part of the work. These signatures create a direct link with those of the 39 native nations that signed the Great Peace of Montréal.

War and Peace After becoming familiar with the historical figures involved in the Great Peace, the students attended workshops introducing them to poetry as a creative and spontaneous process. Each of the participants were then encouraged to write their own poems on the theme of war and peace. Coming from a variety of backgrounds and countries, the young people took inspiration from their personal experiences, their family histories, their origins, their reference points, and their mother tongues to create personal poetic compositions.

A project that sparks excitement in young people
With the publication of Volume 2 of Nous sommes Montréal, young people have for a second time created a collective work of creative writing inspired by moments in the history of Montréal. The Museum is very proud of this collaboration that shines a spotlight on young talent. The students’ enthusiasm was apparent from the very first meeting, with sensitive and inspiring writing rapidly springing forth. On the whole, this poetic and humane experience helped raise young people’s awareness of the richness and vitality of French, and the importance of mastering the language.

The project came to a conclusion with the launch of the collection Nous sommes Montréal, tome 2, La Grande Paix racontée on January 31, 2020, with families, friends, schools, and the public invited to celebrate the young people’s creative work and perseverance. On October 5, 2020, Canada's History announced the 2020 Shortlist for the Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Community Programming which featured Nous sommes Montréal, tome 2.

The book, available for free on line, and the project as a whole are a celebration of the French language and of its value as a source of pride for all participants.

Nous sommes Montréal is a project made possible through the financial support of the Government of Québec and the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications’ program for the promotion of French.

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