Today, I acknowledge that we traveled through Treaty 61, where we are residing.
Today (June 21) has been entitled National Aboriginal Day , which began in 1996 on summer solstice. In 2018, Indigenous Peoples hope that this will be renamed to National Indigenous Peoples day. I support this change (plus making it a holiday for celebrating the many cultures, languages, and first peoples of the land which Canada resides on). There was a wealth of community celebrations across many reserves, many of which we were invited to… However, our route permitted Thunder Bay as our destination, a city with a rich Indigenous population who would be having a large PowWow as well.
We traveled through Pays Plat and arrived in Thunder Bay, a city with a high Indigenous population, including a high hate crime rate towards Urban Indigenous peoples. We were unable to locate Red Rock #53. I would like to note that I could not contact either reserve.
Pays Plat #51
About 1.5 hours from Marathon, Pays Plat sits right on the highway before Nipigon. We were in a time crunch, and made it to the community at lunch (we have done this almost every single day…doesn’t make for good timing), so we drove through briefly. We noticed many kids on the PowWow grounds, presumably celebrating NAD. Check out @RimaMoun for some pictures of the PowWow!
Of notable history (as found on their website listed above), Pays Plat FN still houses old stone pits and trenches that were built during the time of Ojibway and Iroquois battles. In 1777, a British Fur Trader landed in PPFN and was excepted into the community, given the name Amik (meaning beaver in Ojibway). In the 1960s they had a Lamprey Eel issue (just a fun fact!). The people of PPFN were employed by the Department of Lands and Forestry until the 70s, when the nearby base was shut down… many of the men were notable firefighters.
Red Rock #53
We missed the turn off for Red Rock, however it became quite clear why this community was named that… the rock really did turn red as we were looking for the turn off to their community.
Red Rock is a community of about 330 members on reserve. They strongly believe in oral history, tradition, and power of their members, and hope to build a brighter future for their youth (learn more about their culture and language here:
http://rrib.ca/our-culture/). They embrace the 7 Grandfather teachings. During the reserve land divisions, they were supposed to be allotted 640 acres but were given only 480 acres. They have grown from 166 members in 1886 to over 1800 members today.
Sorry we missed you RRFN!
Though not a reserve in itself, the Indigenous Population is one of the highest in a city centre in Canada. FYI, the Gov of Canada estimates about 56% of Indigenous Peoples live in urban centres. *Please note that other urban areas, including Toronto and Sault Ste. Marie have many Indigenous Peoples as well. I have been learning more and more about the struggles of Urban First Nations people, including many socio-economic issues and mental health issues which often have routes in racism and intergenerational impact of IRS. Researching the population on google, I get suggestions for “thunder bay news chronicle obituaries” and “Thunder Bay to investigate youth deaths”; “Thunder Bay to review police practices.” I found it difficult to retrieve information on the Indigenous peoples of Tbay. There are many struggles, some the same, some very different, among Urban Indigenous peoples vs. that of on-reserve peoples. In different ways, both experience poverty, mental health, discrimination, a struggle with cultural identity, employment difficulties, and more. The conversation of Urban Indigenous is often missed… mind you the conversation of Indigenous peoples is often missed… nevertheless, I have heard one too many times from Non- Indigenous peoples that, in “simple,” those on reserve should move to urban centres and their issues will be fixed… that is very small minded, complicated, degrading, and missing the systemic issues. There are MANY difficulties for Urban Indigenous peoples.
We attended TB’s PowWow celebrations down at the Marine Park where hundreds of people were celebrating; dancing, singing, shopping, eating, playing. It was overwhelming for me to be around so many people after being in the much quieter bush for a week lol. But it was so colourful! All the regalia was lighting up the clouded day. The dogs were kissing me and the artists work was beautiful. We spoke with many people, including Dilico (http://www.dilico.com/), an Anishinabek Family Care organization that seeks to “promote healing and the well-being of the Anishinabek people using an integrated holistic approach in a way that honours values, culture, and traditions.”
We walked the shops, Evan bought a nicely patterned shirt (**Shout out to the cultural appropriation talk – As a white person, is supporting the Indigenous arts through purchasing this shirt. I wear my First Nations School shirt I was given with pride. I will wear the Orange Shirt I bought at Batchewana [remembering Residential school children] with pride and allyship. And Evan will do the same. I gaurentee he will call out to where he purchased this, and recognize the Indigenous peoples who crafted it. Checkout http://www.beyondbuckskin.com/ for more information #BuyNative. Also check out this site for more Native fashions: http://apihtawikosisan.com/artisansclothing/).
I hope everyone celebrated the centuries old Indigenous Peoples that have resided in what we call Canada. I know that this day I wore my NAD tattoo, Raven Earrings (of an Indigenous artist from Vancouver, which I bought at my first CNSA conference), FNST shirt, and Medicine Wheel Allyship pin to recognize this day. Miigwetch for the feast, for the fun, the conversation, peoples, art, culture, and land.