Museums, communities and universities gather at Manitou Mounds

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Last weekend a conference was held involving various stakeholders from academia and residents of Treaty #3 territory at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung (Manitou Mounds).

Professor Pamela Klassen is in the Department for the Study of Religion at University of Toronto. Klassen along with some of her students is one of the event organizers. She says the goal for the event was to see how institutions and indigenous communities can better work together.

“We’ve brought together people from all around Ontario, Manitoba and even some people from Ohio and then also local community members to talk about how museums and universities can better serve indigenous communities,” Klassen said. “Especially in relation to thinking about telling the history and continuing importance of Treaty.”

The event featured conversations about Treaty #3, water, the Mounds, and repatriation and relationships.

One of the first speakers at the event was Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh, Chief of Grand Council Treaty #3. During his address to the group Kavanaugh spent time discussing the importance of Treaty #3 and Manito Aki Inakonigaawn which is an ancient spiritual principle that dictates Treaty #3’s “Duty to respect and protect lands that may be effected from over-usage, degradation and un-ethical processes.” According to the Grand Council website.

The Manitou Mounds site was instrumental in the formalization in writing of Manito Aki Inakonigaawn.

“Manito Aki Inakonigaawin was officially written and ratified by elders of the Nation of Treaty #3 in 1997. On April 22 and 23, and July 31, 1997, an Elders gathering was held in Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung at Manito Ochi-waan. The elders brought the written law through ceremony, where the spirits approved this law and respectfully petitioned the National Assembly to adopt it as a temporal law of the Nation.”

This principle is how Treaty #3 dictates what is done with respect to any land development or resource usage.

Chief Kavanaugh said the event is a good way of developing relationships. That the two sides, indigenous and settlers haven’t really had a good relationship in the past. At the same time Kavanaugh also says he doesn’t really like the word ‘reconciliation.’

“I don’t really like the term ‘reconciliation,’” Kavanaugh said. “Reconciliation for me means that we once had a good relationship and we’re in the process of rebuilding that relationship but to me ever since the treaties were signed, it’s all been one-sided it was never a relationship.”

Ed Mandamin gives a talk on water and its importance in Treaty #3 territory and Anishinaabe culture at the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Gathering last Saturday. Mandamin is a Treaty #3 Treaty and Aboriginal Rights Researcher as well as a residential school survivor. –Allan Bradbury photo

Kavanaugh says there is a long way to go when it comes to reconciliation.

“It’s been a buzzword for the last 20 years, ‘reconciliation,’” he said. “For me, it hasn’t started off on the right foot, even today we still have people that truly don’t understand what it’s all about. For us, when we share our stories there’s still people that say ‘oh get over it, it was a long time ago.’ But it still impacts us. A lot of people I know got re-victimized when they found those 415 unmarked graves.”

Klassen believes that the gathering itself was a product of work towards that kind of partnership over a number of years. She’s been working with the mounds in her academic pursuits.

“It’s not an accident that this is coming about 10 years after we started working together,” Klassen said. “It’s a long, long process. I think anytime people hear each other’s stories it changes them, and hopefully it changes them for the better.”

For Klassen, a partnership between settler and indigenous colleagues is also important.

“I think a number of my indigenous colleagues who’ve come here would probably not have come if it weren’t actually here,” Klassen said of hosting the gathering at Manitou Mounds. “Most often academic conferences are in the downtowns of cities. Cinder block buildings and cold hotels.”

The majority of the conversations held at the gathering took place in the roundhouse at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung rather than a more formal setting like a traditional academic conference.

Kavanaugh says he’d like to see more happening in the future as people work towards a happy medium.

“[This event] is all about reconciliation and healing and about developing relationship,” Kavanaugh said. “I mean true, true relationship in terms of partnership where one partner does not dominate the other but we participate equally moving forward to find that happy medium.