By Lindsey Cooke
PETERBOROUGH- Members of the Miawpukek First Nations community came all the way from Conne River, Newfoundland to celebrate National Aboriginal Day at the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough today.
To many, National Aboriginal Day has brought more awareness to the culture and history of First Nations over the years.Chief of the Miawpukek community, Mi’sel Joe said that National Aboriginal Day is not just a celebration for today but every day. “I look at National Aboriginal Day, not so much as Canada’s birthday but a birthday for all Aboriginal people across the land. We’ve been here for about 10,000 years so the government is celebrating 150 years and we have been celebrating this day forever” said the chief.
He explained that this day is for people with a deep appreciation for who they are and that they are unique in the sense that they have a different needs and ways of life.
Another guest from the First Nations community who took part in the celebration at the museum was Chief Phillis Williams of Curve Lake. She elaborated her thoughts and emotions about what today really means. “I think it is becoming more of a collaboration and celebration of all of our nationalities and realizing too that there needs to be an element of our history in this country. The reality is our history books don’t capture the truth and honesty of everything we have given this country… I think the more that we celebrate and honour each other, the more it will be embraced, and relationships will be embraced and truly celebrated” said Williams.
Andy Dufrane was also another guest that came for the event. He is a part of the Peterborough and Ontario Wapiti District Council and Metis Nation of Ontario. Dufrane shed some light on how things have progressed more for the community of Metis people over the years.
“I think the Supreme Court cases, which define who the Metis people are in Canada was significant in bringing the constitutional awareness of Metis people as one of the three Aboriginal peoples in Canada. I think that sort of solidified who we are as a nation, and give credence to everyone who we help build in our contribution to where Canada is today” shared Dufrane.
Derek Stride, is the apprentice canoe maker from the Miawpukek community. He said he thinks that since the beginning days of National Aboriginal day, things have progressed in society but they also haven’t. “We still don’t have water rights.. we can’t hunt our fish like our people used to do and we have been on the land for thousands of years” explained Stride.
Members from the Miawpuek community brought a handcrafted, birch bark canoe. This canoe was made by Chief Mi’sel Joe’s brother Phillip Joe, his son and Stride. He said it took them about 14 weeks to build the canoe and that they started in November. The canoe is made from birch bark and spruce tree roots. “Believe it or not, the hardest part is gathering all this material. You have to take all the roots out of the ground, you have to strip the bark, strip the roots” shared Joe.
Joe shared that this was his first time in Ontario and that he had always wanted to visit the Canadian Canoe Museum.