By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY—Red Rock Indian Band’s Cindy Crowe led a Canada Day Sharing Circle with Pipe Ceremony at the Spirit Garden Firepit at Marina Park in Thunder Bay.
“We had a whole lot of interesting people come to the circle today from all over — Ohio and Sudbury and Lac Seul and all around,” Crowe says. “We had lots of people come and join us, so it was a great circle.”
About 25-30 people from different cultures attended the Sharing Circle at different times throughout the 6-7 p.m. scheduled time slot.
“It was like a revolving [door sharing circle],” Crowe says. “I like to be casual like that because you want to encourage people to come and participate, even if it’s only for a few minutes. That gives them the experience and then they can say when they go back home that: ‘Yeah, I did some smudging and I participated in a sharing circle and I got to appreciate the Indigenous culture.’ And that is what Blue Sky [Community Healing Centre] is all about is sharing the culture.”
Crowe says some of the Sharing Circle participants were familiar with the traditional practices, but most had not learned about them before.
“It’s important to share with other Indigenous people that haven’t had the chance to be raised with the culture,” Crowe says. “And it’s also really important to share with the non-Indigenous culture so that they can have a better understanding and understand why these things are so sacred to us and why they are so important.”
Three members of the Regional Multicultural Youth Council enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the Sharing Circle.
“It was nice to just have a smudge, but the wind was [acting up a bit],” says Eabametoong’s Chris Ooshag. “It was very nice to do it out here on Canada Day.”
“The circle was good,” says Brandon Bruce, who is from Pembroke, Ontario. “It was nice to be introduced to the ladies at Blue Sky [Community Healing Circle].”
“It was pretty good,” says Deer Lake’s Kayla Meekis. “I like sharing circles and I like hearing everybody’s thoughts.”
Crowe welcomed each person to the sharing circle and provided them with an opportunity to hold the talking stick and share their thoughts.
“We even had a really young person here today,” Crowe says. “I’m not sure how old she was, but I don’t think she was more than 10, so that was pretty cool too.”
Crowe appreciated the opportunity to hold the Sharing Circle at the Spirit Garden Firepit, which is located on the shore of Lake Superior with an unobstructed view of the Sleeping Giant.
“It’s very special,” Crowe says. “Even the rocks, in the shape of a circle, is very significant. It’s a very spiritual place.”
Crowe was approached by the City of Thunder Bay to hold the ceremony during this year’s Canada Day celebrations.
“We decided to do something simple, so [we did] smudging [and a] sharing circle,” Crowe says. “I did smoke my pipe before everyone got here and we had some help to light the sacred fire.”
Crowe looks forward to holding another Canada Day Sharing Circle next year, noting that Canada will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2017.
“The city is already talking to us about being involved next year,” Crowe says. “I’d like to put a [teaching] lodge up here next year. I see this as a tradition that we’re welcoming people to Turtle Island. Our people have always welcomed visitors and given them the best that they had — a place to sleep and food to eat.”