Working Together: Our Stories
Best Practices and Lessons Learned in Aboriginal Engagement
Chapter 3 – Presenting Our Special Places Together
Creating Awareness Through Languages
Many Canadians would be surprised to learn that more than 50 distinct Aboriginal languages exist in Canada. Parks Canada is committed to working in partnership with Aboriginal communities to convey the importance of Aboriginal languages and their inherent place in Canada's national parks, national historic sites and marine conservation areas.
Parks Canada Charter in Dakota
© Parks Canada
Translation of the Parks Canada Charter into Aboriginal Languages 1 acknowledges that more than half of the land managed by Parks Canada derives from land claim settlements made with Aboriginal groups who share an interest with Parks Canada to protect natural and cultural heritage. Conveying the values and principles of Parks Canada's Charter in Aboriginal languages is a respectful way of promoting engagement of Aboriginal peoples. Parks Canada initially discussed the project with the 12 Aboriginal leaders of its Aboriginal Consultative Committee. Subsequent surveys with Field Units identified languages to include. Working closely with Aboriginal communities, the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat then contracted local language experts to translate the charter into more than 24 languages. This was not an easy task as it became apparent that simple translation would not be culturally appropriate. In fact, quite a few of the words used in the Charter refer to concepts either not found in Aboriginal languages, or concepts that cannot be translated into simple words. Translators soon realised that the Charter needed to be adapted to Aboriginal languages. The printed and, on request, audio versions distributed to Aboriginal communities have helped establish a better understanding of shared values and the need to work together to protect and enhance heritage landscapes.
Interpretative panels at Kootenae House National Historic Site
© Parks Canada
The Ktunaxa translation done for the Kootenae House National Historic Site Interpretive Panels2 is building public appreciation for the First Nations heritage of this site as an important fur-trading post with the Ktunaxa Nation. The panels include a map showing the routes explored by fur-trader David Thompson and expand on the role of his First Nation guides. A message outline and the design ideas presented to Ktunaxa elders for approval prompted several elders to share historical knowledge. Before the panels were made in 2009, the content was sent to the Ktunaxa Nation Traditional Knowledge and Language Sector for review, comment and translation.
Pictograph site in Twin Bays south along Kootenay Lake, B.C.
© Parks Canada / Brad Himour
The Parks Canada Pictograph Project3 in the Lake Louise, Yoho and Banff national parks is helping to preserve messages literally fading from the landscape. High-resolution digital photography is used to create a permanent record of these sacred First Nation sites. Interviews with elders are providing cultural context. Elders from the Piikani, Stoney Nakoda (Chiniki), Kinbasket and Ktunaxa First Nation communities have been shown digitally enhanced images of pictograph sites to comment on their meaning and physical nature. The raw digital images were enhanced using Dstretch software which brings out pigment residues often invisible to the naked eye. Being invited to speak for their own cultural traditions encouraged the elders to participate in this project. Their insight complements recordings describing the digital images that will be part of an inventory kept by Parks Canada and First Nation communities. Cultural resource specialists at Parks Canada not only seek to protect cultural heritage by ensuring that they remain healthy and whole but also find ways of presenting and celebrating cultural histories. The project has given Parks Canada a better understanding of First Nation concerns regarding site management and preservation. It is also fostering public appreciation for the sacredness of these sites and support for their preservation.
The Words That Come Before All Else, Mallorytown Landing, St Lawrence National Park
© Parks Canada
A number of residents at Mallorytown Landing were upset after St. Lawrence Islands National Park removed the beach to re-vegetate the shoreline. The beach had been closed more often than open in the past years due to high coliform bacteria count. To facilitate a new generation of experiences at the landing, staff worked with Akwesasne and regional residents to create Words Before All Else Rocks4 project. Ohenten Kariwatekekwen (The Words That Come Before All Else), also known as the Thanksgiving Address, is at the core of the Haudenosaunee view of the universe. Each gathering begins with this greeting that acknowledges and gives thanks to all the elements of creation. Each meeting closes with similar words. Symbols representing the 18 elements were illustrated and carved onto rocks throughout the site at Mallorytown Landing and assembled together with their corresponding symbols into a final carving on a rock of contemplation jutting into the bay. The words are in Mohawk, English and French. Visitors search for the rocks with their 18 symbols, culminating in the complete thanksgiving address. An interpretive panel entitled Instructions from Mother Earth accompanies the final carved rock. The panel describes the context for the thanksgiving address, teachings from the natural world and the notion of respectful co-existence. The site also has panels telling the stories of surrounding residents' stewardship contributions. The Akwesasne community has been deeply moved by the inclusion of their language on the rocks. Many people have said it makes them feel welcome in their traditional territory.
Oral history's importance has been the driver in the Preparation of the 2008 Submission Report to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada on Catherine Beaulieu Bouvier Lamoureux (ca. 1836 – 1918).5 Memories of the earliest Métis women from the Mackenzie Basin have largely been lost. It is testimony to Catherine Beaulieu's significance to northern society – especially the Deh Cho First Nations and the Métis– that some of her life can still be compiled from distant memories, oral traditions and some documentation. Her Dene and French-Canadian upbringing enabled her to serve as intermediary among the Dene, the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) and the Oblate missionaries. Her candidacy as a person of national historic significance is an example of best practices when it comes to recognizing individuals – notably women – who have largely been overlooked by documented history.
The Board raised questions regarding the methodology used to collect and evaluate the information presented to them in 2002. It opted to consider a resubmission after demographic reports and the process for documenting the oral history were reviewed by the Cultural Communities Committee and subsequently by the Board. A supplementary report was tabled in 2005 on the subject of oral histories, and the Board reaffirmed its practice of giving oral tradition due weight in its considerations. Guiding principles, including a methodological approach for the use of oral history, were accepted in 2006. A new report was subsequently prepared on Catherine Beaulieu that included oral accounts from the Fort Providence area in the Northwest Territories, as well as additional primary and secondary research from HBC and Oblate documents, and early Oblate published writings. Considering oral tradition when it is relevant, useful and reliable, on a case-by-case basis, acknowledges the fact that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis histories are often not found in standard history books. And oral histories – if properly collected – can be of tremendous value.
Valérie Therrien, External Relations Manager, La Mauricie National Park and Réjean O'Bomsawin, Counsellor, Conseil de la Nation des Abénakis d Odanak, during the unveiling of the plaque
© Parks Canada
The Plaque Commemoration Ceremony with the Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada: Abernaki War Chief, Nescambouit6 has built public appreciation and support for Aboriginal leaders. The Abernaki community had asked the Board to pay tribute to Nescambouit, an Abernaki chief revered for his bravery, war-strategizing and negotiating skills in dealing with the French and the British. His dedication and perseverance helped to maintain the autonomy and integrity of Abernaki territory. A plaque unveiling organized with La Mauricie National Park and the community took place during a powwow marking the 350th anniversary of Odanak, Quebec, in June 2010. Richard O'Bomsawin, chief of the Odanak Band Council and Nicole O'Bomsawin, a community historian, gave a presentation about Nescambouit. A chant honouring the war chief ended the ceremony.
Reaching Students at School
The Calendar That Won't Stay on the Wall! 7 has broadened awareness about species at risk within Aboriginal communities in Atlantic Canada. Designed for high-school students and their families, the calendar featured Aboriginal language in conveying some of the information concerning species relevant to Aboriginal peoples within the region. It also contained significant dates regarding Aboriginal peoples and events. Recipients appreciated its Aboriginal art. They also liked having the first edition based on the Mi'kmaq lunar cycle (March 2007-February 2008) and the second on the Inuit calendar (March 2009-February 2010).
Cover of the Species at Risk Calendar, Based on the Mi'kmaw Lunar Cycle
© Parks Canada
To ensure the calendar had the right elements, its planning involved the region's Aboriginal communities, Parks Canada's Atlantic Service Centre (Aboriginal Initiatives Section), and the Species-at-Risk Interdepartmental Committee of Atlantic Canada (Parks Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada). A teaching guide produced with education specialists from Parks Canada, Environment Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Education suggested various activities for species awareness and recovery. The distribution beyond Aboriginal communities in Atlantic Canada (including Labrador) and the Gaspé Peninsula to all Atlantic Canada high schools broadened awareness and support.
Hul'q'umi'num' Elder Philomena Pagaduan and Parks Canada Interpreter Athena George share stories in the schools about threatened plants and animals.
© School District 79
In British Columbia, the Species at Risk in Schools Project8 has raised awareness of the Species at Risk Act in two very important West Coast First Nation languages: Hul'q'umi'num' and SENĆOŦEN. The purpose was to encourage students to appreciate culturally significant animals and plants so they would act in ways to prevent them from becoming extinct. The presentations were designed and delivered by Hul'q'umi'num' and SENĆOŦEN speakers with an interpreter from Gulf Island National Park. Consultations for program development were held with the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group / Parks Canada Agency Consultative Committee, which consists of six Coast Salish First Nations, and subsequently the Saanich Indian School Board. With activities and length tailored to age groups, the program included stories, games, a large poster, a set of information cards and show-and-tell segments to introduce a featured animal or plant and its name in Hul'q'umi'num' or SENĆOŦEN, as well as elders or Parks Canada staff as guest speakers. A closing activity focused on positive actions students could take for species recovery in their own community. A total of 2000 English and 400 French posters were distributed in schools. Close to 2,500 students and teachers took part in these school programs. They are now aware of species that are at risk and of the presence of the Hul'q'umi'num' and the SENĆOŦEN peoples who have lived in this area for a very long time.
Quote: "I liked the story of the Creator that explained why First Nations treat nature like family. The presentation really taught me a lot about how I can help the environment." – Alisha, Grade 7 Student, Bayside Middle School
Helping to Re-Connect
Treaty Payments and Education Program 9 at the Forks National Historic Site provides an opportunity for Parks Canada to welcome First Nation people from communities in Manitoba and Northern Ontario to this historic site in Winnipeg to receive their treaty annuity. Treaties are important to the history of Manitoba as well as to The Forks National Historic Site. The Peguis / Selkirk Agreement of 1817 was made at The Forks and the first of the numbered treaties in Western Canada, Treaty No. 1, was signed a short distance north at Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site. The Forks was a place where Aboriginal people seasonally camped, traded and gathered for at least 6,000 years and they have continued a spiritual, historic and economic link with the site over time.
Setting up the Payment tables
© Parks Canada
The program draws thousands of First Nation people who might not otherwise visit a site administered by Parks Canada. Many feel a special connection to the place where 6,500 to 8,000 recipients can personally collect their $5.00 annuity. They are welcomed by opening ceremonies that include a blessing by elders. A few days prior, Parks Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada staff present an information and training session to government employees who will pay treaty, as well as to local tenants and neighbours. A display provides the opportunity to learn about the Aboriginal history of The Forks, treaty payments and the commitment by Parks Canada to relate the story of Treaty No. 1.
York Factory National Historic Site, located eight kilometres from the mouth of Hudson Bay on Hayes River, was a Hudson Bay Company (HBC) trading post at the centre of the fur trade for 200 years. It was known as "Kichewaskahikun" or the Great House by the Cree, many of whom lived and worked there as tradesmen, tripmen and labourers. When its massive Depot doors that had seen decades of trade goods pass through were closed for the last time in 1957, the Cree who still lived there relocated to York Landing, Bird, Shamattawa and Churchill in northern Manitoba. In 2006, York Factory First Nation and the Fox Lake Cree Nation (also York Factory descendants) approached Parks Canada about organizing a biannual homecoming at York Factory National Historic Site. The York Factory Heritage Gatherings10 in 2008 and 2010 gave Aboriginal partners an opportunity to reconnect with a place that has strong ties to their cultural heritage and established a setting for elders to pass along the connection to this important place to the next generation of York Factory descendents - their children and grandchildren. Parks Canada learned about the historical operations of York Factory from the oral histories and recollections of the elders who were returning to the site for the first time in years. New interpretive signage focussing on the role of the Cree at York Factory was added to the site.
Welcoming Visitors Together
Building site for Champagne & Aishihik First Nations Cultural Centre
© Parks Canada
Location will also be part of the success of the Renewal & Re-location of the Kluane National Park & Reserve Visitor Centre to the Champagne & Aishihik First Nations Cultural Centre.11 Plans were being made in 2007 for re-capitalization of the Kluane National Park and Reserve visitor centre as the 1980 exhibits have deteriorated considerably and the stories in the centre no longer reflect current messages and management practices. A year later, the Champagne & Aishihik First Nations invited Parks Canada to re-locate the centre within the new Cultural Centre they were planning. The location will be more visible to highway traffic, which positions the park to attract more visitors. As a key tenant, Parks Canada is contributing towards the Cultural Centre through a 40-year pre-paid lease. Both the Champagne & Aishihik First Nations and the Kluane First Nation are working with Parks Canada on the renewal of exhibits and audio-visual products for the new visitor centre's scheduled opening in the spring of 2012. Champagne & Aishihik First Nations organised a job fair for their citizens for the major construction to be done to ensure economic benefits for their communities.
Members of the Conseil des Innus d'Ekuanitshit (left to right): Joachim Selma, Entreprises Shanamas, Vincent Napish, Counsellor, Rita Mestokosho, Counsellor and member of Parks Canada's Aboriginal Consultative Committee, Jean-Charles Piétacho, Chief, Isabelle Napess, Counsellor and Bernard Lafontaine, Vice-Chief.
© L.Boudreau / Conseil des Innus d'Ekuanitshit
Sometimes, the best of intentions take time to come to life. When Parks Canada created the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve in 1984, promises were made to the Innu community of Ekuanitshit that a welcoming centre would be built in their community. Twenty-five years later, the centre is finally becoming a reality. Inspired by Aboriginal longhouses, the architectural concept for the Construction of the Maison de la culture innue in Ekuanitshit12 was developed in spring 2009. It will be built at the edge of the community of Ekuanitshit as a visitor centre, to pass on knowledge and promote the Innu language and the close ties that link the community of Ekuanitshit to the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve. Members of the Ekuanitshit First Nation, from youths to elders, have been involved since the project's inception and will continue to do so. Elders were consulted about the centre's location and local Innu artists will create works of art that are already incorporated in the concept of the longhouse. This approach promotes a sense of ownership. The Maison de la culture innue d'Ekuanitshit will address the cultural needs of Innus in an intergenerational meeting place while offering tourists a glimpse into the world of the Innu of Ekuanitshit from yesterday to today.
Quote: "The Innu community has such a strong connection to the islands. But when you're on the islands, you don't see it. This cultural centre is a way of showing that. This centre is for our children. And it is not just a project or a building. It is a dream." – Rita Mestokosho, Councillor, Conseil des Innus d'Ekuanitshit and member of Parks Canada's Aboriginal Consultative Committee
© Parks Canada
Port au Choix National Historic Site's rich Aboriginal heritage dates back more than 5000 years. It commemorates, among others, an ancient burial ground belonging to the Maritime Archaic Tradition and a Palaeoeskimo living site dating back 2000 years. Port au Choix consulted the province's Aboriginal groups when it developed a Landscape Visitor Experience Plan13. Representatives from Aboriginal groups and local stakeholders attended two workshops and provided feedback in person and in writing. This helped the site develop meaningful visitor experiences, and gave Aboriginal groups a greater appreciation for the site and an opportunity to participate in how it's presented and protected. The site's "Landscape Visitor Experience Plan" was completed in October 2009. It presents an array of engaging experiences to help visitors make a personal connection to the site. During the summer of 2010, fund from Canada's Economic Action Plan was used to complete infrastructure projects including: The Dorset Doorway, The Gathering Circle, Landscape Sculptures, and The Phillip's Garden program Shelter. Together, Parks Canada and Aboriginal groups developed a product that will help Canadians appreciate and understand the rich Aboriginal heritage at Port au Choix National Historic Site and the need to protect it for generations to come.
Kwantlen First Nation performing a cleansing ceremony at Fort Langley's Visitor Centre
© Parks Canada / Nancy Hildebrand
On February 25, 2011, a blanket ceremony, drumming and a delicious salmon and bannock banquet marked the birth of Šxwimelə Gifts14, which means "store" in Halq'eméylem, at Fort Langley National Historic Site's Visitor Centre. The new shop is managed by members of the Kwantlen First Nation, located across a narrow channel of the Fraser River from the site. In Fort Langley, ties with the Kwantlen stretch back to the fort's operation between 1827 and the 1880s, when the Kwantlen were the key trading partners at this Hudson's Bay Company post. During the blanket ceremony, Kwantlen Elders pinned colourful blankets on the Šxwimelə staff—primarily Aboriginal youth and elders—to symbolize them taking on the responsibility for the store on behalf of the nation. Kwantlen youth will have the opportunity to learn about their culture and how to run a business alongside their elders. Blankets were also presented to dignitaries including the local mayors and site managers, in appreciation of the honour of welcoming the Kwantlen at the site.
Quote: "This is huge for the community. It's our first economic venture. We see it as giving birth to a 'baby', and being able to nurture what this 'baby' will look like." - Kwantlen spokesperson Brenda Fernie
Telling the Stories
Tseshaht members and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve Public Safety staff transporting the House Post from the boat to the final resting place
© Parks Canada / Pete Clarkson
Benson Island, in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in the Broken Group islands archipelago, was where the Tseshaht people lived year-round for several millennia. According to Tseshaht oral tradition, the creation event of the first Tseshaht man and woman took place on C'issaa (Benson Island). In spring 2009, Benson Island was permanently closed to overnight campers to protect this culturally significant area. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Tseshaht First Nation worked together to develop an interpretive display for the Benson Island Memorial Project15 to tell the story of the area and acknowledge its cultural and historical significance. This project would enhance visitors' experience on the island and help recognize the importance of the Tseshaht presence. The interpretive display included a carved House Post with a viewing platform and two interpretive panels. Well-known Tseshaht carver Gordon Dick carved the post from a red cedar log that the Robinson family donated in honour of their relative Wilfred Robinson, a Tseshaht elder who was instrumental in archaeological digs conducted on Benson Island. The panels, written in Nuu-chah-nulth, French and English, tell the creation story of the Tseshaht people and the cultural history of the C'issaa. Now, visitors walk through a bank of tall trees to discover a cedar walkway leading to a house post in a meadow.
Quote: "It took so many people who were strong and never gave up. The things that have happened through the years, it is hard to believe, but we can't give up. There's lots to do yet." - Grand Chief Bert Mack, Toquaht Nation
Panel depicting the story of the Anishinabe Clan System and the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers
© Parks Canada
In an effort to better incorporate the Anishinabe (Algonquin) people and their story along the Rideau Corridor and build stronger relationships with them, Rideau Canal National Historic Site is working with the Omàmiwininì Pimàdjwowin Cultural Centre to develop museum interpretive panels that share the story of the Anishinabe people, their culture and religious beliefs. The Algonquin Museum panel exhibits for the Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada and Omàmiwininì Pimàdjwowin Cultural Centre, Golden Lake Ontario16 will tell the story of the Anishinabe Clan System and the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers. These interpretive exhibits will be displayed at the Rideau Canal Museum, Parks Canada Interpretive outreach trailer and at the Omàmiwininì Pimàdjwowin Cultural Centre on the Pikwakanagan Algonquin Reserve. This project, along with previous ones since 2007, helped change the relationship with the Anishinabe people of Ontario from one of misunderstanding and mistrust to one of mutual trust where Parks Canada is asked by the Anishinabe to help facilitate relationships between other federal and provincial departments.
Presentation ceremony, left to right: Billy Joe (Canoe Builder, Miawpukek First Nation), Sylvester Joe (Youth Canoe Builder, Miawpukek First Nation), Maggie John, Aboriginal Liaison Officer, Parks Canada, Chief Misel Joe, Miawpukek First Nation and member of Parks Canada's Aboriginal Consultative Committee, Donny Benoit (Canoe Builder, Miawpukek First Nation)
© Parks Canada
Contrary to popular belief, the Beothuk were not the last Aboriginal people to inhabit Newfoundland. At the time of European contact, the Mi'kmaq territory included Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and some parts of New Brunswick, Gaspé and southern Newfoundland. The Mi'kmaq Ocean going canoe provided the principle mode of travelling this vast territory. Today, some 10,000 people of Mi'kmaq ancestry still live in Newfoundland: the Miawpukek First Nation of Conne River is the only recognized reserve. Since Parks Canada and Miawpukek First Nation both believe that the best way to present Aboriginal history and culture is through first person interpretation and hands-on demonstrations, they worked in partnership for the Construction of a Traditional Mi'kmaw Birch Bark Canoe17 in Gros Morne National Park. Three Miawpukek First Nation residents, including a youth, spent six weeks in the park demonstrating how to build the canoe using traditional tools, materials and construction methods. The canoe was named Mattio after Mattie Mitchell, a Mi'kmaq hunter, guide and prospector, who was recognized in 2005 as a person of national historic significance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The Federation of Newfoundland Indians contributed the wages of two of its members to deliver on-site interpretation. The canoe was presented to Gros Morne National Park on National Aboriginal Day 2007.
Building on the success of this project, Chief Misel Joe from the Miawpukek First Nation and member of Parks Canada's Aboriginal Consultative Committee asked two other residents of his community to return to Gros Morne National Park for 14 weeks for the Construction of the Mi'kmaw Caribou Hide Canoe18. He believed that this would help the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq keep their history, culture, traditions and language alive while giving visitors to the park an appreciation and understanding of the rich history of the Mi'kmaq people. Mi'kmaq and Parks Canada staff provided on-site interpretation. Projects and events at the park have encouraged local people to explore their Aboriginal ancestry.
Inuit artist Lena Onalik with Alan Latourelle, Parks Canada's Chief Executive Officer
© Parks Canada
As part of the seven-week Port au Choix National Historic Site "Artist in Residence"19 pilot project, accomplished Inuk artist, drummer and throat singer Lena Onalik of Nunatsiavut greeted visitors and talked about the drum she used and made a presentation that included singing, drumming and throat singing. She also demonstrated how to make earrings from porcupine quills and displayed them. Lena's art and stories helped visitors connect to the national historic site through a genuine, memorable experience and presented Canada's rich Aboriginal culture.
Living the Cultures
Sometimes, bridging the gap between cultures only needs a sunny day and a chance to share a cultural experience. During Parks Day in July 2010, a dance troupe of eight dancers and five drummers from the Attikamekw First Nation were invited to offer a Presentation of a traditional Aboriginal dance for the 40th anniversary celebrations20 of La Mauricie National Park. Visitors received free admission to the park that day and the dance troupe invited them to participate in the dances. Members of the dance troupe also explained the various dances and the origins of their regalia.
In Manitoba, Treaty No. 1 was signed with the Anishnaabe and Muskego Cree (Saulteaux and Swampy Cree) First Nations of southern Manitoba on August 3, 1871. It became the forerunner of the numbered treaties of Western Canada that opened the door for large-scale settlement by the Europeans. During the August long weekend, a two-day Commemoration of the Signing of Treaty No. 1, August 321 is held at Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site. To take advantage of the August long weekend, Monday focuses on cultural activities including craft demonstrations, traditional dancing, traditional singing and drumming, contemporary singing, dancing and musical performances. August 3rd features ceremonies and a series of guest lectures on treaties and their impact in partnership with the Treaty Relations Commission for Manitoba (TRCM). The days have led to increased visitation, improved knowledge of First Nations and the importance and impact of Treaty No. 1 to First Nations and non-First Nations beneficiaries.