By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY—Former Red Rock Indian Band (RRIB) councillor, Kristine Baccar, helped celebrate the Martin family reunion with family members from near and far at the community’s traditional powwow.
“It’s wonderful to have all the family together,” Baccar says on the second day of the July 15-17 powwow. “This is the first reunion we’ve had in [about] 20 years. And they’re from all over — we’ve got people from the United States that came up, we’ve got people from all over the place.”
Baccar says the reunion gave the Martin family members an opportunity to reunite with their culture and heritage during the powwow.
“This is where our roots are and where we come from and our culture is here,” Baccar says. “A lot of us are still very much involved in the Native culture. It’s a wonderful weekend, the sun is shining and my boys are drumming and dancing and a lot of my family is here that dances. It’s a nice time to reunite again.”
Sheila Hephner, whose maiden name was Martin, travelled about 10 hours from Wisconsin to attend the reunion. Hephner was raised in Nipigon and moved to the United States after marrying a farmer from Wisconsin.
“This is my fourth [trip] this year,” Hephner says, noting she travelled to the area this past Christmas season as well as in March and May. “You meet a lot of new people because the family has moved away and you don’t see them all the time. It was just great meeting the newer people like the wives of some of my nephews and the husbands of the nieces.”
Beverly St. John, Hephner’s daughter who now lives in Wabun, Minnesota, also travelled about 10 hours to attend the reunion.
“It’s good because when I was small, I had to go to school and that ruined everything,” St. John says. “We used to be here three or four months and then in Wisconsin three or four months and then here three or four months, so I was really close with all of my cousins. It’s really good to see a lot of them again. It’s been maybe 30 or 40 years since I saw some of them.”
St. John says it is like home whenever she visits her relatives in the RRIB area.
“It’s like you never left,” St. John says. “I’m just glad we got the opportunity to get together. My youngest one was like two or three months old the last reunion. She’s 24 now.”
Lera Hephner, a fancy shawl and jingle dress dancer from Wabun, has been visiting with family in the area for the past three years.
“It’s really nice because I get to see family that I’ve never met before and find out who is all my relations and get reconnected with my family and more importantly, where I am from originally,” Lera says. “Since I never grew up here, I get to reconnect with the place itself.”
Lera also enjoys experiencing the powwows in Canada, noting they are different from Wisconsin.
“It’s more laid back,” Lera says. “It’s keeping to our ways more than down south, where I am from.”
Ruby Martin, a RRIB resident, says the reunion was “super.”
“When you get old, the generations are getting further apart,” Martin says. “So you don’t know half the little ones any more. But it’s nice to get with the older ones that you know, like nieces and nephews.”