Long Lake #58’s Natasha Fisher performs a song during the Classic Roots open-air concert at National Aboriginal Day in Thunder Bay.

By Rick Garrick

THUNDER BAY—A teaching lodge and an open air concert by Classic Roots were among the events featured at Thunder Bay’s National Aboriginal Day celebration at Prince Arthur’s Landing.

“It went really well — the young people did an amazing job of putting the teaching lodge up,” says Cindy Crowe, Red Rock Indian Band citizen and lodge keeper of Blue Sky Community Healing Centre in Thunder Bay. “Things have been fairly quiet here today. We did a smudge and I smoked my pipe and we’ve had a bit of a sharing circle.”

Crowe says people are curious about the teaching lodge.

“Just about everybody who has walked by has stopped to ask questions, so that is really what we want,” Crowe says. “We really want to create an awareness out there with the general public.”

Crowe says the 50-foot long, 18-foot wide teaching lodge was open every afternoon from 12-5 p.m. until July 2. It is located near the Spirit Gardens on Thunder Bay’s waterfront.

“We’re hoping to have a conversation with the general public about how they celebrate various stages of their family’s life,” Crowe says. “The teaching lodge to me is about sharing and maybe talking about experiences, sharing ceremony, sharing food, sharing some teachings if people want to share.”

Crowe says a couple of Finnish ancestry shared what a good life meant to them.

“That was wonderful,” Crowe says. “So that is what we are hoping for.”

The teaching lodge was built with birch and poplar poles on June 19 by a group of about 20 youth, Elders and community members as part of the Rites of Passage multi-cultural and multi-generational project, which received funding from the Ontario 150 Partnership Program and support from PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise, Blue Sky Community Healing Centre and other collaborating partners.

“It’s a great way to showcase the old ways, the old traditions in this area, not only for the young people who actually put most of this together, but also for other people in the area to experience one of these traditional teaching lodges and what they look like and how they feel and how they connect with the land,” says Jill Taylor-Hollings, a board member with the Blue Sky Community Healing Centre.

The Classic Roots concert featured two Anishinabek performers, Wikwemikong’s Nimkii Osawamick and Long Lake #58’s Natasha Fisher, in addition to Classic Roots and the two opening act singers.

Osawamick performed his hoop dance moves during the opening performance.

“This is our second tour with the whole group,” says Osawamick. “But me and Classic Roots, we’ve been doing a show together — the Honouring. That’s how we met. I’ve been dancing my whole life.”

Osawamick says he first began collaborating with Classic Roots about two years ago.

“It’s been a great experience,” Osawamick says. “It’s definitely different from what I’m used to, like just straight Pow Wow [dancing]. So it’s a cool change.”

Fisher began singing with Classic Roots about six or seven years ago.

“He’s my cousin, so roots go way back,” Fisher says. “It’s good, really good. I basically started off my career working side-by-side with him.”

Fisher says the group of performers, known as Deep Roots Collective, travels to communities across the north to do performances with the youth.

“We get together four or five times a year and just play shows like this,” Fisher says. “I always love coming back and performing for my home town. It’s just a great opportunity to give back to the community that raised me.”