Anishinaabe people from across their traditional territory have come together for a gathering in Erickson, Man., aimed at strengthening culture and building connections.
“It’s to know the history of who we are, by sharing our collective knowledge from different regions throughout the Anishinaabe nation,” said Jerry Daniels, grand chief of Manitoba’s Southern Chiefs’ Organization.
The Southern Chiefs Organization and Grand Council Treaty 3 are hosting the event.
Daniels said guests from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the United States have travelled to Erickson for the event this week.
He said the gathering is an opportunity to connect elders with youth, putting a strong emphasis on culture and language revitalization.
“We have two areas — cultural tents or language tents — where we’re teaching and sharing the language,” said Daniels.
“We have the main site where we are sharing stories… and we’ve got people who are historians who are talking about the Anishinaabe and the different gifts that were given to the Anishinaabe people.”
The event has so far featured sunrise ceremonies, a grand entry and grassdance. Daniels said Wednesday’s activities would focus on youth, Thursday’s focus would be on women and Friday’s events would focus on leadership and the elders.
‘I don’t know my identity’
Zagime Anishinabek First Nation (formerly Sakimay) chief Lynn Acoose said she drove from Saskatchewan to the gathering to strengthen her ties to the Anishinaabe nation.
“I came because I really struggle with this whole notion of our people only identifying as being from a First Nation,” said Acoose.
Last year, she sent a survey to the people in her First Nation and asked how they self-identify, with options like Anishinaabe, Saulteaux, Cree, urban or Sakimay First Nation.
“One person said ‘I don’t know my identity.’ And the majority of people just said ‘Band member of Zagime,'” said Acoose.
“So I think that we really need to go back to understanding who we are as a nation.”
Although the event was organized by First Nations political organizations, Acoose said there was a motion made to keep things non-political.
Daniels said they are hoping to have the Anishinaabe gathering be an annual event with different regions hosting each year.