*I am very behind on my posts because life happens… I am still learning and will continue to post – please notice the date as per the title. **Photo above was taken created by Kels Pitchenese, see their website in the Eagle Lake FN paragraph.
Today, I acknowledge that we traveled through Treaty 60 to Treaty 3, and are residing in Treaty 3 territory. We traveled through Fort William First Nation, Wabigoon, and Eagle Lake and are sleeping in Kenora. We were unable to reach Grassy Narrows and so did not make the 2-hour journey off the highway to there.
Fort William First Nation #52
I did not contact FWFN prior to our visiting because it was not clear to me before we arrived in Thunder Bay that there was a reserve there. This was my misunderstanding.
Fort White FN is located outside of the city centre of Thunder Bay, created in 1853 as a part of the Robinson-Superior treaty. Throughout history, they lost most of their best land to settlers.
Without even looking into their history, it is evident that this community has lots of economic development. A large reserve, of about 830 people on reserve, they offer “Thunder Mountain” (Anemki Wajiw) – now known as Mt McKay,
Wasaya Airlines HQ, Dilico, AADNC Building, a youth centre, an arena, police services, Nishnawbe Aski Nation office, and more. The 14,369 acres also has some public transportation access.
Wish we had time to stay longer and chat but we had some 600km to travel… We later learned that the site for a Residential School (St. Joseph’s Boarding School) was in the reserve. Stay tuned for a post about that experience.
Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation#27
Later, we made our way to Wabigoon, about half an hour before Dryden. We did not get a chance to see the health centre as we were confused about maneuvering on the reserve and again had to ask for directions. Beforehand, we did some research and learned that Wabigoon FN has extensive Manoomin. Manoomin means wild rice in Ojibwe. We stopped in to the shop on the reserve and bought some wild rice (and a sacred medicine, tobacco, and potato chips). I also note that this is the first time on our trip I’ve seen a sharps bin on reserve, outside of health care facilities (later in the week we would learn about challenges of living close to cities and having more access to IV drugs – however, as for WFN, I did not talk to anyone about this as an issue so I am just making an observation).
Wabigoon is a community of about 200 on reserve and they live on Treaty 3 land. The history of this FN community suggests, like many others, that the people who lived here for generations endured illness brought by Europeans and cultural suppression (for example, Residential Schools and the Indian Act). Wabigoon Chief Pitchenese of the 60s, was able to maintain the Manoomin fields, allowing Wabigoon to hold the only Native Wild Rice company in Canada today (which is why we were sure to #BuyNative). Their history talked a lot about the strategies used to protect this crop as a source of rebuilding their peoples. Economic self-determination and cultural entrepreneurship is something that WFN is very proud of, and should be! They note that they are pro-active in cultural revitalization.
On our way out we saw a little black bear grazing and a magpie.
Eagle Lake First Nation/Migisi Sahgaingan #27
Migisi, meaning Eagle in Ojibway, First Nation was yet another beautiful reserve. I was hoping to meet with an employee in the health facility but we were unable to follow up with our plans and got in after hours. ELFN is about 30 minutes on the opposite side of Dryden, consisting of about 600 members on reserve. They have many cultural activities as listed in their website and claim to be very sports oriented; playing host to hockey and baseball tournaments.
ELFN was really difficult for us to find, with many different roads that we maneuvered. It was an adventure! We drove past the Ojibway Paradise Resort/Cabins/Conference Centre; a gas station; bingo palace; catering companies; a communiy centre; and other, community member led jobs such as 3B Muzik (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsdEqwdAMts) and Kels Photography (https://fineartamerica.com/featured/eagle-lake-kels-pitchenese.html https://www.flickr.com/photos/kelspitchenese1992). We noticed we had little cell reception and the horse flies were out to eat you!
Most notably, ELFN PowWow Grounds look as though the community would be an impeccable host of cultural celebrations. We sought out the PowWow grounds and wow, they were beautiful. Breathtaking. Take a look for yourself:
Checkout their youth and Right To Play here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlB2-a6-wkk
Miigwetch to all the rocks, trees, animals, people, and spirits we passed today.