Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung organizing canoe trip to commemorate treaty signing

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

As part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 3, Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre (Manitou Mounds) is inviting members of all Treaty 3 communities to participate in a canoe trip from the Mounds to the signing location of the treaty in Northwest Angle.

The trip has been dubbed Dasoonag, meaning “so many canoes” in Anishinaabemowin.

According to grant manager and archivist Jessie Richard, the idea came up in discussions about how the centre would celebrate the milestone anniversary of the treaty between the Indigenous people of this area and the Government of Canada.

“Jim Leonard, our general manager and all of us were chatting about what to do to celebrate the 150th anniversary,” Richard said. “Jim has always really loved a canoe trip that happened 25 years ago and thought ‘why don’t we do something similar, but expand it to be even bigger.’”

Since the idea sparked, Leonard has spent time getting in touch with the 27 communities of Treaty 3 territory to invite them to participate.

“I’m in the process of contacting most of the communities,” Leonard said. “I’ve been contacting them by phone but I’m making an attempt to visit every First Nation community in Treaty 3. I’ve done about half so far…”

Leonard says as he’s reached out, there’s been a lot of interest as well as support for the effort.

“A lot of people (have expressed interest), whether they’ll actually go on the trip or not I don’t know,” Leonard said. “But there’s a lot of interest and a lot of encouragement and support.”

The trip will be a seven-day event in partnership with Lake Life Adventures. Departing from Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung and arriving at the location of the signing of Treaty 3 in Northwest Angle near Sioux Narrows. It will run from August 3-10.

The first couple of days will consist of learning safety and first aid as well as basic camping knowledge. Members will camp out at the historical centre and then start the trip on the Rainy River proceeding into Lake of the Woods.

There will be five full days of canoeing six to seven hours per day with longer breaks to break up the morning and afternoon shifts. Meals will be catered by Lake Life Adventures.

The group is also taking many safety precautions. Two pontoon boats, a houseboat and a speedboat will all be part of the operation with a registered nurse in the event of illness or injury. The speedboat will also be able to get anyone who needs immediate medical attention to the nearest helicopter pad or emergency room.

The stops are planned at several communities along the route, including Assabaska Heritage Park in Big Grassy First Nation and Anisniaabeg of Naongashiing or Big Island First Nation among others.

“There are going to be storytellers and elders joining the crew pretty well each night of the trip,” Richard said. “There’s going to be drums and celebrations and feasts all the way up to Northwest Angle then at Northwest Angle on the seventh day of the trip people are going to be there for a big party.

There is no fee to go on the trip, but paddlers must be part of one of the 27 communities in Treaty 3 territory. They will have to supply their own canoe and camping equipment but food will be provided.

“We have been applying for grants and looking for outside contributors for this,” Richard said. “But there will not be a cost for community members to participate, however donations are welcomed.”

Any Treaty 3 community members interested in going on the trip can contact Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre for a registration package which contains many more trip details. The deadline to sign up is Friday, July 21.

The trip hopes to recreate the route that the original treaty signers might have taken to get from the Rainy River area to the signing at Northwest Angle.

“This is really just retracing the pathway that the people would have taken to get to Northwest Angle for the actual signing of the treaty,” said Richard. “So, you know 150 years later we’re retracing the tracks that people did take to get to the same spot to celebrate and bring everyone back together again.”

Richard says the subject of the treaty is a little difficult especially given its terms.

“The treaty is a hard subject, because it certainly was not necessarily written for the benefit of Indigenous people,” she said. “But at the end of the day, 150 years later all 27 communities, all of these different people have different walks of life and experiences … they all get to come together again and just be with each other. So maybe not celebrating the actual treaty, but to celebrate human connection and experience the the familiarity between communities within the Treaty 3 region.

Leonard is a former chief of Rainy River First Nations and says despite the negative connotations around the idea of treaties between Indigenous people and the Canadian government, the Anishinaabe people of Treaty 3 are proud of it.

“The treaty is still very strong with First Nations people of the area,” Leonard said. “It’s something that’s there and will always be there and the First Nations people are very proud of the treaty.”

A staff member from the Mounds will be on the trip to keep others updated with their progress via social media and to record the trip and the final feast in Northwest Angle will be open to the public who didn’t take the trip.