Language & Cultural Gathering Held In Timmins
Ramada Inn, Timmins, Ontario – February 14 to 18, 2020
Wabun Health Services Hosted a Language and Culture Camp in Timmins recently at the Ramada Inn February 14 to 18. The event brought together Elders and youth from Wabun Tribal Council First Nation communities to take part in workshops, educational sessions and activities focusing on language, traditions and culture. The gathering was made possible through funding support from Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN).
The event was managed by Julie McKay, Assistant Health Director, Wabun Health and Debbie Proulx-Buffalo, Mental Wellness Coordinator / Case Manager, Wabun Health with support from Wabun Health staff and administration.
“We wanted a way to bridge the gap between Elders and youth to allow them the opportunity to speak the language and share stories and teachings from their communities. There were many youth who also had an opportunity to strengthen friendships with other young people from different First Nations. It was also a fun event that brought people together as a community to support one another and to be proud of their heritage,” said McKay.
The event was visited by regional leadership from NAN including Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox and Deputy Grand Chief Walter Naveau, who is a past Chief of Mattagami First Nation. Both leaders addressed the gathering to share their support and encouragement.
“It is important for our people, especially our youth to find ways to hold on to their language and their culture. Our language and our dialects are important to our communities because it connects us to our past, our ancestors, our families and our history. Learning the language and hearing those words spoken is a form of healing for our youth and it acts much like our traditional medicines to heal our young people, empower them and make them stronger and more confident individuals,” explained Deputy Grand Chief Naveau.
Event coordination also included Faye Naveau, Regional Crisis Coordinator for Wabun Health Services and Jean Lemieux, Wabun Health Director.
“We wanted to hold this gathering as a way to encourage our First Nation language and culture within the youth. We brought together Elders and also Indigenous teachers and speakers to foster that learning and teach our young people about their heritage. This is important for our members, especially for our youth and we hope to continue to provide this type of gathering on an annual basis. We are grateful for the support from Nishnawbe-Aski Nation for helping to make this possible,” commented Lemieux.
The three day camp included traditional teachers and instructors who held a series of workshops on First Nation crafts, activities and games that allowed for participants to hear and learn about their traditional language. Great Lakes Cultural Camps, an Indigenous owned and operated outdoors training and teaching company from Wikwemikong First Nation, provided indoor and outdoor activities for youth and adults. The company owners Bernadette ‘Cooks’ and her husband Maheengun Shawanda, worked together with their son Naakwam, to provide teaching and training activities including snowshoeing, spear throwing, traditional snow games and traditional winter teachings. They were also supported by traditional teacher Bea Shawanda, who held workshops on traditional teachings. Art Petahtegoose and his granddaughter Hannah Mnookmi Morningstar of Atikameksheg Anishnawbek FN, held teaching activities on traditional birch bark and ash wood basket making. A series of special workshops on the art of gathering and making traditional medicines, ointments and teas was also hosted by Joe Pitawanakwat of Wikwemikong.
All these activities were held at the hotel’s main hall, central courtyard with a permanently installed teepee and in the nearby forest for snowshoe outings. The activities included opportunities for youth to mix with Elders from their communities throughout the three day gathering.
“This gathering is important because we are all getting together with friends and families from our communities. We get to learn about our culture, our language and our history. It’s also fun and there are many times we get to laugh, to share and to feel good about being together,” said 15 year old Mona Redbreast, who is from Brunswick House FN.
Youth, Elders and Chaperones came together at this gathering from the Wabun communities of Mattagami, Matachewan and Brunswick House. Wabun Elders attending included Vina Hendrix and Jeannette Gilbert of Matachewan First FN and Joyce Luke of Mattagami FN. Traditional Drum performances was provided by Northern Spirit which included Shawn Tangie, Jericho Mac, Sage Iahtail and Ethaniel Wesley.
“We learned a lot of new things about our history. It’s important because we are all drifting away from our culture and it feels good to be here with people who have knowledge they can share with us. When I come to gatherings like this, I learn more every time,” said 14 year old Leeon Prince, who is from Mattagami FN.
Wabun Health Services is part of Wabun Tribal Council which is a regional territorial organization which represents the six First Nation communities of Beaverhouse, Brunswick House, Chapleau Ojibwe, Flying Post, Matachewan and Mattagami in Northeastern Ontario and it is directed by its respective Chiefs.