Chief Phyllis Williams of Curve Lake First Nation and Dr. Leo Groarke, president and vice-chancellor of Trent University exchange flags.

Chief Phyllis Williams of Curve Lake First Nation and Dr. Leo Groarke, president and vice-chancellor of Trent University exchange flags.

A long-standing relationship between Trent University and Curve Lake First Nation began with a two dollar donation when, in 1964, Curve Lake Chief Dalton Jacobs made the contribution to kick-off the fundraising campaign for the yet-to-be-born university.

That symbolic gesture was the beginning of a unique partnership, rooted in respect, honour, and friendship, that has endured for fifty years. And it’s a relationship that was reinforced on August, 7, 2014 when the current chief, Phyllis Williams, presented Trent University with two dollars at Trent’s 50th Anniversary Kick-Off Weekend Opening Night Reception.

At the reception, Chief Williams exchanged flags with Trent University president Dr. Leo Groarke to demonstrate that the special bond between Curve Lake and Trent will be honoured “as long as the winds shall blow.” As the Curve Lake flag flies at Trent events throughout the year, it is hoped that it will instill pride in students from Curve Lake and inspire other Indigenous students to attend the university.

Chief Williams praised Trent’s past leadership who had the “good vision and commitment” to launch Canada’s first native studies program in 1969. “They saw a future that would inspire our children, youth, and community to achieve higher academic learning,” Chief Williams said. Trent’s current reputation as a major centre for Indigenous studies can be traced back to that first program.

Over the years, Trent’s relationship with the Aboriginal community and Curve Lake, in particular, has blossomed. The affection that Trent holds for Curve Lake dates back to the first days of the university, and was epitomized in the Hike for Hundreds, held on January 27, 1968.

That day, Trent University President Tom Symons and Chief Jacobs led 205 hikers on an eleven mile walkathon over the frozen landscape from Champlain College to Curve Lake to raise funds for sports and recreation at the reserve. President Symons noted that, a few years earlier, Curve Lake had been the first group to welcome Trent to the area and had made one of the first donations to the University fund.

A long time band council member and former chief, Keith Knott, speaks highly of the working relationship that grew out of the walkathon. Since then, he and others have participated in a variety of activities at Trent, including commencement, speaking engagements, and committees. Councillor Knott, who was recognized in 2007 with a Community Leaders Award by Trent, also points out that a number of Curve Lake members have graduated from the University.

Curve Lake Pow Wow – September 20

This year, as Trent celebrates its 50th anniversary, the close relationship between Trent and Curve Lake is being acknowledged and strengthened at various community events. A highlight will be a special presentation at the annual Curve Lake Pow Wow on Saturday, September 20.

Following the Pow Wow Grand Entry, representatives from Curve Lake and Trent will row two canoes across Buckhorn Lake to the site of the Pow Wow. Upon arrival, a special presentation will be made to Trent University, demonstrating the strength of the friendship between Curve Lake and the University.

Community Parade and Ceremony – October 18

On Saturday, October 18, the relationship between Trent University and Curve Lake will come full circle. Chief Williams and other representatives from Curve Lake will participate in a community parade and ceremony in downtown Peterborough celebrating Trent’s 50th anniversary. Chief Williams will bring greetings from Curve Lake First Nation and welcome everyone to the ancestral territory of the Mississaugas.

The event will be reminiscent of the original parade and opening ceremonies held for Trent University on October 17, 1964. That day Curve Lake Chief Jacobs and his councillors reportedly “stole the show,” dazzling the spectators as they marched to Rubidge Hall adorned in traditional head-dresses and fringed leathers.