CURVE LAKE — For members of Curve Lake First Nation, Mnoominkewin is much more than just a word.
Steeped in generations of cultural and spiritual significance, Mnoominkewin carries an important meaning: the way of life, the art and the culture that develops as community practises mnoominke — an intergenerational method of planting, tending, gathering and processing mnoomin wild rice known as “the Gift of the Creator,” “the Good Seed” and the “Spirit Seed.”
Now, community members are preparing for the fourth annual Mnoominkewin Gathering, taking place on Sept. 23 at Curve Lake First Nation, northeast of Peterborough.
The private, but open-to-attend Mnoominkewin Gathering sees elders and traditional knowledge holders, along with singers, drummers, Anishnaabemowin language teachers, artists, chefs and community members come together for a mnoomin-themed day of celebration, education and teachings.
All are invited to gather, plant, process, eat and celebrate mnoomin, with the overall aim of renewing and strengthening community ties.
“The original vision (for the gathering) was to rehabilitate the damaged Mnoomin beds that have been damaged throughout the years from boats and cottagers and to also educate and create awareness,” said Missy Knott, who sits on the committee that organized the yearly community gathering.
According to Knott, who has spent the last four months readying the gathering, the inaugural gathering was brought to life by a trio of Curve Lake First Nation members.
“Originally, the gathering was founded and organized by three community members, from the community band itself. It was James Whetung, who is an advocate and a rice activist Patti Shaughnessy who has a large part in the arts community, and then Sean Conway, who is now a Curve Lake First Nation councillor, had a huge part in getting it off the ground,” Knott explained.
This year’s Mnoominkewin Gathering also falls on an important date that still, to this day, carries with it deep-seeded wounds that Indigenous peoples across Ontario continue to grapple with.
One hundred years ago, in 1923, the Williams Treaty was signed by the governments of Ontario and Canada and seven First Nations of the Chippewa of Lake Simcoe (Georgina Island, Beausoleil, and Rama) and the Mississauga of the north shore of Lake Ontario (Alderville, Curve Lake, Hiawatha and Scugog Island).
More than 20,000 square kilometres of land was transferred to the Crown, marking the final land cession treaty in the country. But the move only the set the stage for legal wrangling over jurisdictional rights related to fishing and hunting.
The treaty will be a focus at the upcoming gathering.
“Together, we will actively undo the damage done by the colonial government from the Williams’ Treaty of 1923. Together, we will restore cultural transmission, exercise sovereignty, rebuild food security and practise Mnoominkewin.,” reads a poster advertising the Sept. 23 gathering.
“This year marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Williams Treaty in 1923, so (it’s about actively trying to undo the damage that’s been done,” Knott told Metroland.
All are invited to join us plant, gather, process, eat and renew familial and community ties. Together, we will actively undo the damage done by the colonial government from the Williams Treaty of 1923. Together, we will restore cultural transmission, exercise sovereignty, rebuild food security and practice Mnoominkewin.
Since its early days, the gathering has grown. This year features a jam-packed lineup.
Knott, an acclaimed singer-songwriter and musician, will also “be taking the lead on signing some songs,” as well. Another local band of settler allies, dubbed Babe Core, will also hit the stage.
The gathering takes place at Curve Lake’s Pow Wow Grounds/Lime Kline Park from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
A schedule and list of performers is posted at mnoominkewin.com/
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner