The Staff at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung (Manitou Mounds) facilitated a discussion between members of the Rainy River First Nations Community and two staff members from Parks Canada to talk about the wording of a new plaque to be erected at the National Historic Site.
The conversation took place at the Rainy River First Nations (RRFN) band office and was facilitated by Mounds education programmer Bobby Hudon. The historic centre falls under the purview of RRFN.
The topics of conversation centered around many different aspects of the space, which preserves several ancient burial mounds and hosts a cultural centre and museum.
Hudon asked those gathered about their feelings around the space, and tried to discern more of the history around it to better enable the construction of a new plaque.
Rainy River First Nations Chief Marcel Marcel Medicine-Horton was involved in the discussions. He says the discussions were focussed on family and the ancestral ties the community has to the area now covered by the historical centre.
“For me, personally, the whole exercise today was all about focusing on family, focusing on all the ancestral ties and the roots and the spiritual connection and that empowerment piece that comes from it,” the RRFN Chief said. “[We need to] utilize those teachings from long ago, bring that to modern day, right now, and use that as an empowerment, bring our communities into the next century. It’s so important because it’s it’s 100 per cent our ties to the history of this river, and we are blessed to live on the Rainy River.”
Part of the discussion was about the history of the area, which was occupied by the Long Sault communities before the Canadian government forced those communities to become part of the Rainy River First Nations reserve.
They also discussed the language by which the area is referred to among other topics brought up by Anishinaabemowin speakers present.
Medicine-Horton says he was very pleased with how the discussion session went.
“I think this process was phenomenal, getting members all together here, language speakers, elders, other people, off-community people, I think that it can only enrich our process,” Medicine-Horton said. “More information [brought] to the table will make a better plan for us down the road.”
Svenja Hansen is a partnering and engagement officer with Parks Canada. Along with Parks Canada Historian Will Pratt she attended the discussion session last Saturday and toured the historical centre the day before.
Hansen says working together in the process of making the plaque makes sense in a time when reconciliation is top of mind.
“It’s about the community members, it’s their site, their place, they know it best,” Hansen said. “It’s not appropriate for Parks Canada to go it alone, It’s all about collaboration. I’m very grateful for all of the help that we’re getting. To have community members come out, and the staff from Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung have bent over backwards to help us. We’re just trying to do this in a good way.”
Horton says he was pleased to have this discussion with representatives from Parks Canada on hand.
“I think it’s fantastic that Parks Canada came to Rainy River First Nations,” He said. “In terms of reconciliation, this is exactly how the process has to be. They are to come to our backyard, we are gonna look in their backyard, and some way, somehow we’ll come up with a process and a strategy that benefits everybody. That’s pretty simple to me.”
The process to renew the language of the plaque will continue for some time as members of the community continue to gather to discuss how to word the brief history lesson which will point visitors back to the history of the land. Hansen says that the plaque is a way for Parks Canada to contribute to visitors learning about the past.
Going forward, staff from Manitou Mounds will look to engage RRFN’s Anishinaabemowin speakers as well as local French speakers in an effort to figure out how to best write the new plaque so it can have the same meaning across English, French and the language which has been spoke in the area for thousands of years.