Mounds seeking emergency funds to stay afloat

MANITOU RAPIDS—The Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre, or Manitou Mounds as it is often called, has offered district residents and visitors a gateway to learn about native culture for more than a decade.
But with the small community of Manitou Rapids carrying all the operating costs, keeping the centre open on its own is just getting to be too much to handle.
As such, a meeting with Indian Affairs, Heritage Canada, and hopefully the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is slated there next Thursday (Aug. 31) to discuss the issue.
“Basically what we’re asking them for are some emergency dollars to reactivate that tripartite agreement [between the community, Heritage Canada, and the MNR] and look at the means and ways to achieve utilization and some sustained activity here,” explained Sonny McGinnis.
“Originally, our objective and our goal was just to preserve and protect these burial mounds that predate 5,000 years,” he noted. “So we built the [centre] and subsequently there was a five-year agreement that was signed and ran its course here.
“After that, Manitou was left holding the bag for operating and things.
“We haven’t really done a review of that tripartite agreement, but we’re looking now at about a $1.5 [million] deficit we’re carrying,” McGinnis added.
The agreement lapsed a number of years ago, with McGinnis saying Manitou Rapids has been footing the $200,000-$300,000 a year cost to operate the historical centre.
“Rather than having the comfort of a core budget, it’s been living hand-to-mouth on project program dollars,” he stressed. “So we’re asking the government to come here on [Aug. 31].
“We have some propositions to offer to them that we believe will make this a successful operation and one that can become stand-alone after a while.”
McGinnis added a plan is being developed to present to the government officials that he believes will create interest and utilization.
One of the things they are hoping to achieve is reactivating the partnership with the federal and provincial governments.
“We’re a small community and we couldn’t even 10 years ago see how we could maintain an operating cost that this would require,” McGinnis remarked. “We didn’t come into this project blindly.
“Maybe because things have happened with leadership changes and management changes here, the community finds themselves without any partners at the table any more.”
McGinnis admitted the historical centre hasn’t developed as a destination, and that there isn’t much to hold people or to draw them back there again.
“I think we all know that when we travel [to] places, we might stop once at a museum, it doesn’t matter where it is, but generally we don’t go back,” he noted.
But he said they have some ideas to encourage growth of the centre.
“We’re looking at a curriculum in native studies partnering with the [Rainy River District] school board,” McGinnis remarked. “And we’re looking at creating a native village here that gives us the ability to go after some international clientele.
“If we provide that experience—the teepees and some of the traditional pursuits our people do—and create a program, then we’ll have something other than a place to come and look and a place to come and eat,” he reasoned.
McGinnis indicated Manitou Rapids hopes to share the $1.5-million deficit they’re carrying for the centre.
“We believe we have the solution. . . . Let’s come back and put our heads together,” he stressed.
The Aug. 31 meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the historical centre with some welcoming formalities, followed by a short tour of the mounds.
“We’ll have to see how they feel about the support for this facility,” McGinnis concluded. “We will be asking for emergency dollars and I think goodwill is what we’re counting on.”
(Fort Frances Times)