By Sharon Weatherall
BEAUSOLEIL FN — Participants in the 4th Annual Christian Island Elementary School Pow-Wow learned two very important words in Anishinaabemowin — and any language: Ahnee” (hello) and ‘Miigwech’ (thank you).
On June 12 elementary school students from Wasauksing and Rama First Nations, and St. Anne’s(Penetanguishene) and Erindale High School, visited Christian Island to learn about First Nations culture by participating in traditional dance, drumming and singing, crafts and foods.
“This annual event gets bigger every year,” said Beausoleil First Nation Chief Roly Monague,” following a grand entry of Elders, veterans and dancers. “We welcome visitors who have come here to celebrate our culture and honour our people.”
Chief Monague said a recent bear sighting on the island was a good sign.
“This should be viewed as a blessing and a sign of good for Anishinaabe people. That a mother bear and her cub have come to visit us for a while, there is a spiritual connection.”
Emcee Allan Manitowabi introduced the local veterans taking part in the Grand Entry, as well as Traditional Dancer Clayton King, Fancy Shawl Dancer Nicki Monague and Lead Youth Dancer Gavin King. Wasauksing Spirit Singers of Parry Sound, the host school’s Little Bald Eagle drummers as well as groups from Chimnissing and Mnjikaning provided traditional songs.
School principal Angela Johnson presented a gift to Sue Turner of Erindale High School in thanks for a recent donation of $3000 raised through the sale of fleece blankets.
Band councillor Geoff Monague told guests that Anishinaabe first came to Christian Island in 1856 after being displaced by the government.
“In the early 1800’s we were put on the first reserve in Canada – the Coldwater Reserve near Orillia, but were later moved to Christian Island to make more room for settlers of that time. We are a good, sharing and happy people who have survived much. On Christian Island we are surrounded by water, seagulls and sunshine. We are a fishing community — that’s what our ancestors did initially.
“We love to celebrate our culture at pow-wows. For a lot of years we were not allowed to have pow-wows and the celebrating of our culture had to go underground. In the mid-1970’s we had our first pow-wow here on Christian Island and since then the community is learning more and more about the culture and practising tradition. This makes me very proud and gives me pride that can be shared with others.”
All guests were invited to take part in a Round Dance, and share in a feast of fried fish, strawberries, soup and other traditional foods.