Awen' Gathering Place
The Awen’ Gathering Place is a space along the Collingwood waterfront to recognize the First Nations presence in South Georgian Bay and create opportunities for engagement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples while fostering reconciliation through education and conversation.
The concept for the Awen’ Gathering Place is based on the teachings of renowned Anishinaabe educator, artist and poet Dr Duke Redbird. It links the seven layers of the food forest to the Seven Grandfather Teachings, an ancient Anishinaabe/Midewiwin teaching on the ethics of proper behaviour and conduct or ‘the good way of life’. These teachings are linked to lands that were for thousands of years, the source of life for the Anishinaabeg peoples who gathered foods, medicines and materials from the forest in the area that is now Collingwood.
National Indigenous History Month 2020
As part of National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21) we are sharing this series of five short videos to highlight the history and strength of First Nations People. The videos were created by people with First Nations heritage, each with a different and personal message but all with the overall theme of self-reflection and resiliency. Thank you Mary Barnes, Asha Frost, Heather McIntyre, Jeff Monague and Jillian Morris. We encourage you to learn about the history and present lives of Indigenous peoples in Canada this month and ongoing. We've provided some links below that might be helpful.
Asha Frost, is an Anishinaabe (Ojibway) Medicine Woman, Healer and Spiritual Mentor. She is a member of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation. As a Soul Seer and Visionary, Asha believes that we can all reclaim our roots and deepest medicines. Asha has facilitated healing with thousands of people through the use of Indigenous Based Ceremony, teachings and sacred circle. As a teacher and leader, her purpose is to help women connect to the magic of spirit within their lives so they can root down and be of service to the world.
Mary Barnes is of Ojibwa descent. She is a graduate of the University of Waterloo and a winner of the Tom York Award for short fiction. She has written book reviews for The Antigonish Review and currently writes for Prairiefire. Her poetry has appeared in literary journals such as the Prairie Journal, Tower Poetry Society, and Voicings. Inspirations for her writing come from the landscape of her youth and everyday encounters. The poem she recited in her video is called Nottawasaga Bay Morning and can be found in her book of poetry called What Fox Knew published by At Bay Press. Born in Parry Sound, she now lives in Wasaga Beach with her husband Bob and writes, gardens, and talks to the birds.
Jeff Monague is a former chief of the Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island, former treaty research director with the Anishnabek (Union of Ontario Indians), and veteran of the Canadian Forces. Monague, who taught the Ojibwe language with the Simcoe County District School Board and Georgian College, is currently the co-manager at Springwater Provincial Park on behalf of the Beausoleil First Nation (BFN) in partnership with Ontario. He is also a member of the Emergency Control Group for BFN.
Jillian Morris is a Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) woman and band member of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Currently she resides here in Collingwood. She holds a degree in Public Administration and Indigenous Governance through Ryerson University. Jillian served 13 years with the Department of National Defence (DND) and co-chaired the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Board for a decade during this time. Simultaneously she took advantage of volunteer opportunities which allowed her to build meaningful relationships and networks with other Indigenous people and groups in Simcoe County.
In January 2019 Jillian left the public service to devote more time to Indigenous led initiatives. She has spent the past year and a half continuing to support events, participate on boards, conduct research, and engage as a guest speaker. Jillian is a proud member of the Feather Carriers: Leadership for Life Promotion advisory board which is a cultural-based organization working to support those at risk of premature death. Recently Jillian was excited to have worked under contract with RedCloud Studios Inc. to perform research for the development of Future History season 3. She will continue to do freelance work that is focused on redressing history, healing communities, and improving outcomes.
Heather McIntyre is an Indigenous woman who has lived in Collingwood with her grown family for over 35 years. Heather's grandmother Bertha was an Annishenabe woman originating from Georgian Island near Sutton and set out to build family life in rural Ontario. As a proud member now of The Chippewa's of Georgina Island, Heather has dedicated her life's mission to support individuals who are in crisis or who find themselves stuck in wounded fragments of their life without a voice, the purpose or direction to fully embrace a positive Wellness Story. It took a long time to get to this place of connection, understanding, and fullness fully embracing her culture and her roots. When her grandmother married outside her village all connection, culture, language, and the right to her family roots were made to be severed leaving generations to suffer this great loss of disconnection. It is because of this experience, healing, and reconnection that she is passionate about shining light on connection & strength for the whole world to lean into. It is within the walls of my practice as a Life & Wellness Coach, Aboriginal Healing Facilitator and Educator that the personal power of my ancestors and the stories of my generational healings speak... it's profound, humbling, and rewarding to know that through so much adversity you can open your soul and created beautiful healing that breathes connection & power for all!
Auditor General Reports (Health, Justice, Treaties, Socio-economic gaps):
Chapter 4—Treaty Land Entitlement Obligations—Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
Chapter 6—Emergency Management on Reserves
Chapter 5—First Nations Policing Program—Public Safety Canada
Report 4—Access to Health Services for Remote First Nations Communities
Report 3—Preparing Indigenous Offenders for Release—Correctional Service Canada
Report 5—Socio-economic Gaps on First Nations Reserves—Indigenous Services Canada
In collaboration with a local film company, the Town produced a 10 minute film about the Awen’ Gathering Place which has been screened at municipal events such as the Collingwood Art Crawl and Envisioning a Future toward Reconciliation.
Realizing the vision of Dr Duke Redbird and a team of Indigenous designers the Awen' Gathering Place marries an open-air pavilion and ceremonial lawn prominently sited on a naturalized hilltop in Harbourview Park. The sculptural pavilion that forms the centre piece, honours the area's historical indigenous presence through its artistic expression of the Seven Grandfather Teachings.
The design for the gathering place was the Town’s first comprehensive Indigenous consultation undertaken for a park planning and feature construction project. The resulting seven-meter Alaskan Cedar poles are tilted at varying angles in a circle to evoke the visual attributes of forest trees and a traditional gathering place at the centre of First Nation villages of the past and present. The poles support seven laser cut steel canopies, each cut with a different pattern representing each of the food forest layers. Seven seating platforms below the canopy are engraved with the Ancestor Teachings in the Ojibwe language. As a sculptural representation of the food forest, the design links each forest layer to one of the Seven Ancestor Teachings and provide a space that carries context symbolic of First Nations traditions, land-based learning, and the importance of environmental sustainability. Lit at night, the gathering place serves as a luminous sculptural beacon along Georgian Bay’s shoreline to create a symbolic gateway to encourage discussions, connections and cultural recognition necessary to foster Truth and Reconciliation.
Lafontaine Iron Werks, of Tiny, Ontario, joined forces with Nicola Logworks of Merritt, B.C., to produce the vision inspired by Dr. Redbird and colleagues. Locally, Envision Tatham provided site planning, design, and engineering services to ensure that the structure had the foundation and support needed. Local electrical contract, Spears Electric, ensured that the structure had the power needed to provide light and utility and make the Gathering Circle a very visible component of the town’s waterfront skyline. Eco Blue Systems took on the very difficult work of reclaiming the lands from their former use and developing a basis for trails, landforms, and the Gathering Circle structure, that will make Collingwood proud.
The project caught the imagination of District 6 of United Steelworkers Union (USWD6) who generously volunteered resources and labour to complete the landscaping during their bi-annual convention at Blue Mountain Resort. With a long-standing and acknowledged connection to union members of Indigenous origin, the Steelworkers were moved by the idea of being responsible for “building a bridge” to Reconciliation. More than 450 USWD6 members joined the build-day on September 6, 2018 to lay sod, assist with land forming, and clean litter from the shoreline environment of Georgian Bay in Collingwood. USW representatives have acknowledged that this project was one of the largest and most meaningful community outreach projects they have accomplished in their conference history.
The Awen’ Gathering Place is a collaboration by Brook McIlroy’s Indigenous Design Studio (architects and landscape architects), Envision-Tatham (landscape architects and engineers), and Dr. Duke Redbird.
For more information about the Awen' Gathering Place, feel free to click on the following documents:
As an outdoor space, the Awen’ Gathering Place is available free of charge to the community for ceremonies, celebrations, teachings, contemplation and other peaceful and respectful gatherings. The Awen’ is made use by the Town of Collingwood for events and gatherings but is meant to be used informally by the community. There is no booking of the space or rental fee, however we ask that you adhere to the terms outlined in the following document: