THUNDER BAY – (Special to NetNewsledger.com) – The Elders of the Grey Wolf Teaching Lodge shared a dream with the people of Ojibways of the Pic River First Nation back on September 20, 2006. The dream was to have an Elders and Youth Gathering. Due to the generosity of sponsors such as New Horizons for Seniors, the Anglican Church, the United Church, the City of Thunder Bay, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Non-Insured Health Benefits, Wasaya Airlines and the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise (and many many more sponsors), the dream has been finally realized.
On Sunday, September 19, 2010, we started building the teaching lodge with the help and guidance from the Elder Ron Mandamin of Shoal Lake First Nation. It was in such a beautiful setting between the Pavilion Building at Chippewa Park in Thunder Bay with Lake Superior providing the background serenity throughout the gathering surrounded by evergreens. The dimensions of the physical structure were approximately 60 feet long by 20 feet wide and about 8 feet high! It was definitely the biggest teaching lodge that we had ever built! IT WAS VERY AMAZING AND VERY BEAUTIFUL! While we were standing there on Sunday admiring our work, we were blessed with a golden eagle giving us the thumbs up! I knew in my heart and Spirit that it was going to be an amazing gathering.
Then on Monday, September 20, 2010, the Elders started to arrive including the guiding Elders Norma Fawcett from Red Rock First Nation and Frank and Julie Ozawagosh from Whitefish Lake First Nation. The Elders came from as far away as Winnipeg to the west of us, Toronto to the south of us, Ottawa to the east of us and Wunnumin Lake to the north of us. My partner Alec Oombash and I did our best to greet the Elders arriving at the airport and the rest that were driving in found their way to the Prince Arthur Hotel. Also on Monday, the sweat lodge was built by the Elder Josias Fiddler from Sandy Lake First Nation with the help of his family and our firekeeper Leo Ishabid.
In the mornings the travelling Elders were treated to a hot breakfast at the hotel and then taken by Caribou Coach to the site at Chippewa Park in Thunder Bay Ontario. The Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School students arrived by school bus on all three days. In addition, we had students from E.Q. Jennings and St. Pat’s High School on the Thursday (as well as Early Childhood Edcuation students from Oshki–Pimache–O–Win who performed a puppet show for us on the Friday following the Fall Ceremonies).
On Tuesday, September 21, 2010, the teaching lodge was officially ‘opened’ at the eastern doorway and everyone was invited in. The sights and smells within the teaching lodge were very welcoming and soothing and certainly provided a safe environment for the sharing that was to happen over the next 3 days. Dignitaries were invited to provide greetings and welcomes to the Elders and youth and individuals attending the gathering from a cross-section of cultures including Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Treaty #3, the Anishinabek Nation, the Métis Nation of Ontario as well as our non-Aboriginal brothers and sisters. The dignitaries included Chief Peter Collins of Fort William First Nation; Grand Chief Patrick Madahbee of the Anishinabek Nation; the Ontario President of the Métis Nation and City of Thunder Bay Councillor Rebecca Johnson.
Following a traditional opening ceremony, the microphone was open to the Elders to share their culture, their teachings and their history from their regions on the Tuesday and Wednesday. Each story was touching and thoughtful and it was quite evident by Thursday how close everyone had become, the understandings that had been realized and how necessary such a gathering was. Everyone learned to appreciate and understand the cultures and teachings from the different territories and respected the beliefs of their brothers and sisters.
We had sweat lodge ceremonies each day conducted by: John Lathlin, an Elder from Winnipeg; Frank and Julie Ozawagosh from Whitefish Lake; and, Josias Fiddler from Sandy Lake. Also on the Wednesday evening Juliette Blackhawk from Lac Seul conducted a Full Moon Ceremony. During the Fall Ceremonies the final sweat was conducted by Ron Mandamin of Shoal Lake.
Then on the final day of the gathering, the youth took control of the microphone. This session of the gathering made all the work worthwhile. The youth talked about how much they valued being in the presence of so many gifted Elders. They talked about the issues they are faced with everyday such as: racism, discrimination, the lack of support they receive from their schools, the lack of support they receive from their leadership, and how when they do approach Elders in their communities for guidance, these Elders have suffered so much trauma in their lives, they do not have anything to offer the youth. They told us exactly what they need: teachings, their culture, their Spirituality, their dignity, their language and most of all they need HOPE for the future!
We thought we had worked hard before preparing for this gathering, not realizing that NOW the real work begins. We need to assist the youth as much as we can.
During the closing ceremonies on Thursday, September 23, 2010 and following closing remarks, everyone danced out of the western doorway. It was an amazing sight to see! Then there were hugs down the complete line of participants! Then we were blessed with the fly-by from a bald eagle that flew directly over the teaching lodge as people were departing! We had been doubly blessed!
Due to the huge success and all the positive feedback that we have received, the lodge is planning to have a gathering like this again next year and if you are interested in organizing or participating, please let us know.
Ozhaawashko-giizhig (Blue Sky) Traditional Teaching Lodge
1306 Victoria Ave East
Thunder Bay, ON P7C 1C2
Tele: (807) 473-9851
Toll Free: 1-888-852-5856
Cell: (807) 627-5768
Fax: (807) 939-2750