by Joshua LeClair

National Aboriginal Day marked a special day for Pukaskwa National Park as visitors and locals celebrated the grand opening of the new Anishinaabe Camp, which was relocated onto the shores of Hattie Cove and a grand stone fire circle added. Completed in 2016, this new space is the culmination of a four-year revitalization project in the park’s day use area.

This celebratory day began with local Biigtigong Nishnaabeg elder Cynthia Fisher sharing stories and teachings of the land and water of Pukaskwa National Park. With her medicine wheel in hand she had the following to say:

“Mino Bimaadziwin, ‘the good life’, teaches us that balance is important, and we learn this from the medicine wheel. Balance of oneself creates a strong individual, strong individuals create strong families, strong families create strong communities, strong communities create a strong nation, and through this we all become strong.”

Visitors and locals sat at the stone Fire Circle, completed in 2015 with the support of the former Friends of Pukaskwa. The morning continued with stories being told and laughs had. Nearby at the Anishinaabe Camp, local Indigenous caterer John Twance and his family shared bannock, jam, tea, and coffee.

Elder Collette Goodchild
Elder Collette Goodchild

Before the family served a special lunch time feast, Sharon Hayes (Park Superintendent), Dave Courchene (Deputy Chief of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg), and Collette Goodchild (Elder of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg) addressed the gathering. Sharon thanked visitors for attending the celebration and acknowledged the traditional territory of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and Pic Mobert First Nation. Sharing the story of how the project came to be, Sharon then welcomed and invited visitors "to discover the vibrant culture, rich history, and spiritual teachings of the Anishinaabe people."

In Anishinaabemowin, the local Indigenous language, Deputy Chief Dave Courchene introduced himself before sharing a message of hope for the Anishinaabe Camp to tell the teachings and history of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and the Anishinaabe. Finally, Elder Collette Goodchild offered prayers in Anishinaabemowin and blessed cultural items, the camp area itself, and a feast dish known as the 'grandfather dish'.

The grandfather dish was offered to the fire symbolizing the food being blessed. From the Anishinaabe Camp, John Twance served a savoury moose meat stew with dumplings to a crowd of 65. The intoxicating smell of food mixed with billowing smoke from the fire nearby created a memorable feasting experience.

Hand drummers at the Fire Circle at Pukaskwa National Park
Visitors learning to hand drum

Before the day ended, locals Donald and Julie Michano hosted an afternoon hand drum social at the Fire Circle. Hand drums and rattles were shared with visitors to join in. The group enjoyed an afternoon of singing hand drum songs, each with their own special story and teaching.

National Aboriginal Day and the grand opening of the Anishinaabe Camp marks a special time at Pukaskwa National Park. The Anishinaabe Camp and Fire Circle will provide unique interpretive spaces to support interpretation of Anishinaabe culture and heritage. To all we say, ‘Bbaa-Wiijiiwshinaang’, join us.



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