Historical place-based river tour aims to build and strengthen relationships

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer

Shaun Loney and former Rainy River First Nations chief Jim Leonard spent six years co-authoring Manidoo Ziibi. The book is a place-based history of the Rainy River that highlights the relationships between settlers and Indigenous Peoples in the district.

“It’s not a history book, it’s really a story book,” said Loney.

Now, nearly two years after the book’s release, Loney is ready to take folks out on a historical canoe tour along the Rainy River.

“The idea was to give people two options — they could drive around the river, both American and Canadian sides and have the river tell its story as you go around, or to go down the river by canoe,” he said. “And we’re just now getting around to doing a tour down the river.”

Loney said he’s excited to hear what new stories people have to tell.

“Most of what’s in the book, to be frank, I didn’t know,” he said. “So I’m looking forward also to hearing stories from people who come on the trip, and to hear more from people who have a relationship with the river about what the river means to them.”

The tour was originally supposed to be a full weekend canoe trip, but with Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre hosting Treaty 3’s 150th-anniversary canoe trip in August, Loney decided to scale it back to just one day.

“The 150th anniversary only comes around every 150 years,” he said.

Loney said both canoe trips aim to reclaim the river and their relationship with it.

“And by doing that, we’re strengthening our relationships with each other,” he said. “And I just think we’re realizing again the gift that [the river] is to all of us on both sides of the river, and whether we’re Indigenous or settler, we all belong to it.

“I think spending time on the river, spending time understanding the treaty is just a really good, fundamental practice that will help us all be successful … and thrive. And I think that’s what we all want.”

He went on to say that “if we understand our history, we’ll be more successful moving forward together.”

“For example, if the Ojibwe economies are very strong, then it’s a good thing for everyone,” he said. “I think the economic success of the district is very dependent upon having a good, strong relationship.”

Anishinaabe historian Art Hunter will be helping Loney lead the trip. They’ll start at 9 a.m. on Saturday from the Fort Frances water tower.

“The first thing we’re going to do is a smudge to acknowledge our relationship to each other and to the river,” said Loney.

He said they’ll start by paddling upriver, looking at the Dawson Locks — canals that were built but never used.

Then they’ll go back downstream, looking at the sites of both the Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company’s forts.

“To be able to see those locations from the river is kind of neat,” said Loney.

Then, he said there’s lots for them to see at the Little Fork River, noting a burial mound and a former site of the Rainy River Saulteaux.

They’ll also get to see the largest mound in the area. These are just some of the highlights that Loney mentioned.

Folks can bring their own food for the day, along with canoes, life jackets, paddles, etc.

Loney said they’ll arrange for a pickup wherever the trip happens to end, so participants don’t have to paddle all the way back upstream where they started.

For more information, or to let him know you’ll be attending, please email Loney at shaunloney@mymts.net