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Tuesday, 04 October 2016 20:08

Minaajim: Good Stories from Curve Lake--Our ancestors are with us

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As told by Doug Williams to Julie Kapyrka

            Remember those stories I told about my grandmother and I paddling around to Fenelon Falls when I was a boy—selling ash and birch bark baskets, and various other items made of elm bark? We got to know a lot of people along the shorelines back then.

            Now I wonder, in my old age, if any of those items are still around? They were beautiful pieces of art. They were extremely well made examples of exquisite craftsmanship.

            I had been wondering lately how do I

put the word out there? It would be nice to recover some of these items for our children to see—and to learn from.

            When these people we used to visit pass away, their kids often inherit their possessions, and many times this includes items my people made. Although some take care of these objects, many more do not know what to do with them.

            I have been wondering lately about how to communicate that we have a Cultural Centre at Curve Lake First Nation that is in the process of welcoming home and recovering our material heritage. This could be a good place for people to bring their items.

            And then I found myself at Settlers’ Village in Bobcaygeon one night in early July as a guest speaker at a movie-night event that featured the Curve Lake production, “Oshkigmong: A Place Where I Belong.”

            At the end of the evening a woman came over to me and introduced herself as Shelley Wild.

            She told me her family had lived on the shoreline between Nogie’s Creek and Bobcaygeon for over 100 years. Then she told me that when she was a young girl, people from Curve Lake would come along and sell birch-bark, porcupine-quill baskets to her family, some of which she still has.

            She also told a story about how a family from Curve Lake came by to sell their goods. Her dad was sitting there on a chair, and suddenly it broke right in front of everyone.

            The man in the canoe from Curve Lake said: “Oh, you need a chair. I’ll go make one.” And he went off into the bush, got some sticks (as she put it) and made a chair. She still had it, and she kept it on her veranda.

            I recently tried to reconnect with Shelley to see some of these items (as she’d told me she had others from Curve Lake and they could be things my grandmother and I had made).

            But I received the sad news that she had passed away. I send my sincere condolences to the family.

            It also saddened me to think that I may not get to see these things after all, or have my dream fulfilled of sharing them with the youth.

            Time passed and I was slowly starting to let it go from my mind, when a phone call came in from a gentleman who said he’d been looking for me. He’d recently attended the Curve Lake Pow Wow, and had asked: “Who in Curve Lake makes stick chairs? And where can I find that person?”

            He was given my name but no ideas on where to find me—because I am elusive and not home very often.

            What is odd about this phone call is that Shelley Wild had not contacted him about our conversation. He told me on the phone that Shelley had a dream of giving her items back to Curve Lake, to those who would appreciate their significance and meaning the most. The Curve Lake Cultural Centre was then contacted and given this information.

            There is something much more powerful than us at work here. Something wonderful is helping to facilitate this happening. MIIGWECH.

            The Anishinaabe are a spiritual people. Our ancestors are around us, visit us, and love us. They assist us all the time with the work we must do . . . but that is another story.

Editor’s note: You can contact the Curve Lake Cultural Centre at 705-657-2758, or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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