‘Ozhichigan’ workshops offered at Mounds

Sam Odrowski

The Manitou Mounds has been a busy spot as of late, hosting a variety of free activities and events over the past few months.

Employees at the mounds applied for a grant to hire a workshop coordinator earlier In the year and Maria Vandenbrand filled the position at the end of September.

She has hosted several workshops already and will continue organizing them until March of 2020, when the funding envelope expires.

“What we’re trying to do is some more hands on, traditional, and cultural workshops,” Vandenbrand explained.

“We’ve actually kind of ran with the name ‘Ozhichigan Workshop.'”

“Ozhichigan” is the Ojibwe word for making something good with your hands, in a meaningful and spiritual way, she noted.

The mounds have ran a handful of workshops each month, with the goal of doing one a week, depending on how busy the historical centre is.

Almost all of the workshops are free to attend and often connected to First Nations culture.

Vandenbrand said so far the workshops have been very well-received by those who have attended.

“It’s been great, I’ve had nothing but great feedback,” she enthused. “We have a lot of elders that come out from Manitou to either sit in or lead workshops.

“Dorothy Medicine came out to do our moccasin workshop and people just love to sit and hear and listen to these people talk and teach about their craft,” Vandenbrand added.

She said the moccasin workshop has been her favourite to date and those who attended were amazed they were able to create and take home a pair of moccasins free of charge.

Other workshops have included making beaded poppies, dreamcatchers, ribbon skirts, French-Canadian tourtiere, and even stone tools through flintknapping.

There was also a guided painting workshop with Shawna Grapentine, a Cree-Ojibway artist from northern Manitoa who recently moved to Rainy River.

Vandenbrand told the Times it took some time to gain traction for the workshops, as many in the district often overlook the Manitou Mounds. But as of late the activities have picked up some steam.

“I don’t think people always necessarily know about the kind of facility we have here,” she noted. “We have the huge museum and absolutely beautiful trails.”

In December, the Manitou Mounds hosted wreath-making and ornament making workshops and this month there will be ones on story-telling and creating regalia.

Vandenbrand said to follow the “Manitou Mounds” Facebook page to stay up-to-date on all the free workshops they’re running over the next few months.