Fort William Historical Park staff Audrey Duroy and Carla Gibson share Life in a Wigwam teachings with a group of Junior Canadian Rangers from the James Bay and Matawa First Nations areas during a Feb. 25 evening session.

Fort William Historical Park staff Audrey Duroy and Carla Gibson share Life in a Wigwam teachings with a group of Junior Canadian Rangers from the James Bay and Matawa First Nations areas during a Feb. 25 evening session.

By Rick Garrick

Constance Lake’s Dawson Baxter had most of the answers during the Junior Canadian Rangers Feb. 25 evening Star Walk at Fort William Historical Park’s David Thompson Astronomical Observatory.

“It was just from watching the Discovery Channel and learning some stuff about the universe, science actually, in class,” says the five-year JCR veteran. “I didn’t even know I was going to get the answer right — I just gave it a shot because it was what was in my head and I just said it.”

Baxter says the Star Walk, which included information about the planets, solar system and universe and an exploration of the night sky, was “something new” for the younger JCRs.

“They don’t always see that on a regular day-to-day basis,” Baxter says. “So it was a good change and inI am pretty sure they will be looking forward to seeing more of this in the following days.”

About 88 JCRs and 24 leaders/chaperones from the James Bay and Matawa First Nations areas participated in four days of training from Feb. 25-28, including Star Walk and Life in a Wigwam sessions on Feb. 25; GPS Scavenger Hunt, Muskets and Cannons, Traditional Craft and Night Sky Storytelling sessions on Feb. 26; Voyageur Winter Challenge, First Nations Skills and Tech, History on the Menu, Fur Trade Dancing and Farm Visit sessions on Feb. 27; and Tracks, Skulls and Furs and Ethnobotany sessions on Feb. 28. The JCRs were also scheduled to take in a movie and to visit a trampoline park in nearby Thunder Bay on Feb. 26.

“We went through the wigwam to learn about the cultural past of Aboriginals and how they would live moving from place to place,” Baxter says about the Life in a Wigwam session. “And how they would use the animal skins to keep warm.”

Audrey Duroy, FWHP’s family life and volunteer team leader, and Carla Gibson, FWHP’s education coordinator, led the Life in a Wigwam session.

“We teach about the Anishinabe people and First Nations people too, about our way of life back in 1816,” Duroy says. “We go through the roles of what we do in the seasonal rounds. We also talk about our world view and our philosophy and the material culture that is embedded in everything that we do. I also talk about the technology that the Anishinabe have contributed to the fur trade, and our relationship with the North West Company.”

This was the second training event for the JCRs at FWHP in the last four months. A different group of JCRs participated in FWHP’s Haunted Fort activities last October.

Baxter says the JCR program is preparing him for a future role as a Canadian Ranger and a career in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“In my reserve, I didn’t know nothing about surviving in the bush, but with the Canadian Ranger program I learned a lot of survival skills,” Baxter says. “If I was ever lost out in the woods, (I know) which woods to make a fire with and how to make snare traps.”

Baxter joined the JCRs when he was 12 years old and plans to join the Canadian Rangers when he turns 18.

“You get to go to a lot of great places and meet a lot of good people and learn a lot of new things,” Baxter says about the JCRs. “After my birthday, I’m going to enrol in the Canadian Ranger program and then just show the youth there is a lot more to do.”