Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung working to reword commemorative Parks Canada plaque

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

After review, it was decided that the 10-year-old plaque at the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre (Manitou Mounds), 21 km west of Rainy River First Nations (RRFN) needs a change in language as many things have changed over the years since the plaque was installed.

Jessie Richard, grant manager and archivist at the centre, says they have received feedback on the language used.

“This plaque has been on the property for about 10 years,” Richard said. “So we’re getting reviews saying that it had a colonial point of view, and absolutely terminology has changed in the last 10 years, and 10 years ago Parks Canada and the government had more of a say than they would right now, so they reached out.”

The process of replacing the plaque takes time as the wording has to pass through multiple levels of government and then has to be cast in metal.

“Originally they wanted to rewrite it for us but I requested that we could have community involvement,” Richard said. “I think it’s really important that the community gets a part of telling their history and it’s not written by somebody that’s not here, that doesn’t live here, and doesn’t experience the history of this area.”

The current text of the plaque, situated on the trails of the historical centre is as follows:

“For thousands of years, Indigenous Peoples lived and gathered on the banks of the Rainy River at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung, the “place of the long rapids.” The impressive burial mounds mark the remains of First Nations ancestors. Built between 300 BCE and 1600 CE, these mounds are among the largest in Canada. Archaeology and Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe) oral history confirm this site as a meaningful gathering place where people mourned, celebrated, and traded materials from across the continent. This ancient place continues to be sacred to First Nations culturally and spiritually, linking the past, present, and future.”

According to Parks Canada guidelines, “The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada is the statutory advisory body to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and, through the Minister, to the Government of Canada on the commemoration of nationally significant aspects of Canada’s history. When forwarding a positive recommendation to the Minister, the Board also provides advice on erecting a commemorative plaque.”

There are a number of physical restrictions around the new wording according to a document provided to the centre from Parks Canada.

“A plaque commemorates a place, person or event of national historic importance and conforms to a standard length (625 characters including spaces). Usually, the first sentence indicates the reason for national historic significance, as described in the Board Minutes.”

The plaque will be available in both English and French, and Richard says they hope to also have it translated into Anishinaabemowin by local speakers of the language.

Richard is hoping to schedule a public consultation with the RRFN community — a previous consultation didn’t work out, likely because it was scheduled during the fall fair.

“I know the process last time, 10 years ago, was very different,” Richard said. “Certainly the past manager didn’t have the freedom they’re allowing us. There’s terminology that we no longer use in 2023, so I’m excited to see that being removed and I’m excited for the community to be a part of telling their history on this Parks Canada plaque, which is a really cool experience.”