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.
Acknowledgement of Traditional Lands
A land acknowledgment is a formal statement of gratitude, an understanding of territory and a means of honoring Indigenous people who have lived and cared for the land since time immemorial. In the past they were shared by Indigenous People when visiting other territories, a customary protocol to express respect and to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and are now an important part of reconciliation. Land acknowledgements ask of us to be mindful and reflect on our shared history, relationships and place.
Across Ontario there are over 40 treaties and other land agreements. Treaties were established as agreements between Indigenous Nations and the Crown. They form the basis of relationships, setting out the rights and responsibilities of First Nations and government (federal and provincial). The treaty-making process was undertaken in the spirit of peace, co-existence and mutual respect by First Nations people.
Treaty 18 was signed on October 17, 1818. It is also known as the Lake Simcoe-Nottawasga Treaty.
The first week in November is Treaties Recognition Week. You can find additional information about the importance of treaties and treaty relationships at the following links:
Saugeen Ojibway Nation
Collingwood resides within the Territory of Saugeen Ojibway Nation, which includes Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and Saugeen First Nation and is home to many Indigenous peoples including Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe.
September 30th marks a day to honour innocent lives lost, survivors, families and communities impacted by residential schools. Truth and Reconciliation is a shared responsibility, it asks all of us to reflect, learn and act collectively on this day and into the future. Read the Truth & Reconciliation Commission Report and the 94 Calls to Action, explore virtual events/programs and wear orange as a symbol of remembrance.
To mark this day, the Town of Collingwood flys the Canadian Flag at half-mast from dawn until dusk, the clock tower is lit orange and the Every Child Matters flag is raised at 11:00 am at the Community Flagpole located at the Collingwood Public Library/Municipal Offices.
A permanent poetry installation is on display at the Awen’ Gathering Place. A Tribute to Our Stolen Spirits was written by Jillian Morris, Kanien’kehá:ka, Six Nations. Interactive trail markers were temporarily in place along Harbourview Park trails sharing Indigenous stories, resources and teachings, also available by scrolling through the storymap below.
As part of National Indigenous Awareness Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21) we shared a 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.
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. @asha.frost
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! @the_chroniclesofmommamac
The Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers are an ancient Anishinaabe/Midewiwin teaching on the ethics of proper behaviour and conduct or ‘the good way of life’.
Of all the North American Indigenous teachings, the Seven Grandfather Teachings are the most commonly shared and there are many versions. For thousands of years, these teachings were passed down from generation to generation through stories and ceremonies. In his book, Ojibway Heritage, Anishinaabe writer, storyteller, teacher and scholar Basil Johnston, explains that Anishinaabe stories are "flexible in nature and scope and are often best narrated so that the teller can use their skill and imagination to impart any level of meaning for the audience." (p 8) We hope you will imagine listening to a gifted storyteller as you read these traditional teachings of the Anishinaabe people and let your curiosity delve you deeper into learning about their history, culture and lives today. "But it is not enough to listen to or to read or to understand the truths contained in stories; according to the elders the truths must be lived out and become part of the being of a person". (p 7)
The artwork for this page was created by Anishinaabe artist and illustrator, Luke Swinson.
Niizhwaaswi Gmishoomsinaan Kinoomaagewinan - The Seven Grandfather Teachings
Educator, author and spiritual leader, Edward Benton-Banai tells a story of the Seven Grandfathers in The Mishomis Book, The Voice of the Ojibway. “There were Seven Grandfathers who were given the responsibility by the Creator to watch over the Earth’s people. They were powerful spirits. The Seven Grandfathers recognized that life was not good for the people. They sent Oshkabaywis (helper) to walk among the people and bring back to them a person who could be taught how to live in harmony with the Creation.” (p 60)
Six times the Oshkabaywis tried to find a person worthy enough to bring back to the Seven Grandfathers. Finally, after journeying seven times, Oshkabaywis returned with a baby and the Seven Grandfathers were happy. They instructed the Oshkabaywis to take the baby to every corner of the earth to see all of creation. This took seven years and when they returned, each of the Grandfathers gave the child a gift (Teaching) to share with the people. (p 61-66)
Nbwaakaawin | Wisdom
To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people. In the Anishinaabe language this word expresses not only Wisdom but also prudence or intelligence.
Wisdom is represented by the Beaver who uses its natural gifts wisely in order to survive like cutting logs and branches with its sharp teeth to build lodges and dams.
Aakide’ewin | Bravery
Bravery is to face the foe with integrity. In the Anishinaabe language, this word literally means “state of having a fearless heart.” To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant.
Bravery is represented by the Bear. When caring for and protecting her young, the mother Bear has many challenges and she uses her courage and strength to stand up to her fears.
Mnadendimoowin | Respect
To honor all creation is to have Respect. All of creation should be treated with Respect. You must give Respect if you wish to be respected.
Respect is represented by the Buffalo who at one time was a significant resource for Anishinaabe people, giving every part of itself to sustain human life for food, clothing and shelter.
Debwewin | Truth
To learn the truth, to live with truth, to walk with truth, to speak truth.
Truth is represented by the Turtle. Teaching of the Anishinaabe convey that the Turtle was here during the creation of Earth and bore the weight of the new world on its back, making life possible. By living in a slow and conscientious manner, the Turtle knows the value of both the journey and the destination. Truth is to know all of these things.
Gwekwaadiziwin | Honesty
Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Always be Honest in word and action. Be Honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be Honest with others. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean righteousness.
Honesty is represented by the Raven. The raven knows his gifts and how to use them and accepts himself as he is. He does not look to have the gifts of others such as power or beauty but rather uses his own abilities to the the fullest.
Dbadendizwin | Humility
Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean compassion. You are equal to others, but you are not better.
Humility is represented by the Wolf. Wolves are social animals that live in packs. Their nature is to seek life long bonds, work in cooperation with each other and for the greater good of the pack.
Zaagedowin | Love
To know peace is to know Love. Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need Love the most. In the Anishinaabe language, this word with the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual.
Love is represented by the Eagle. Teachings of the Anishinaabe convey that the Eagle represents love and he carries all the teachings. The Eagle can travel over great distances and to great heights, seeing across the four directions and flying nearest to the creator. An Eagle feather is considered an high honour and a sacred gift.
Luke Swinson is an illustrator and muralist who grew up in Collingwood and currently lives in Kitchener, Ontario. A member of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, Luke’s work reflects his desire to better understand and reclaim his Indigenous culture. He seeks to promote cultural education and preservation through his art projects.
Having been raised around computers, Luke is primarily a digital artist and enjoys using non-traditional methods to express himself creatively. He is mostly self-taught but has been mentored and encouraged by his Father. Luke uses flowing lines and bold colours to convey the spirit and life of the subjects he illustrates. He is inspired by current and past Indigenous artists, the Ontario landscape and the wildlife that inhabits it. @LukeSwinsonArt
Descriptions of the Teachings were provided by Dr. Duke Redbird, Indigenous poet, painter, broadcaster, filmmaker and speaker.
Information in italics about how each animal embodies the Teaching was sourced or cited from Anishinaabeg Bimaadiziwin: An Ojibwe Peoples Resource, Obijwe Teachings, 01/12/2021, https://walkinginhermoccasins.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Ojibwe-Teac....
The Town is committed to inviting Indigenous teachers and Elders to the Awen’ Gathering Place to engage the public in discussions and education focused on traditional Indigenous land-based learning.
A three-part ceremony and discussion series called the Niibi Gatherings brought community members to the Awen' to learn about the sacred connection to the spirit of niibi (water) shared by women in Anishinaabekwe culture as protectors and nurturers of water, to hear about the heritage of Chippewas of Nawash fishing families and to partcipate in a community art project reflecting on our personal history and heritage and the land to which we feel most connected.
The Niibi Gatherings took place on the ceremonial lawn adjacent to the pavillion with perimeter stone seating, focused on a central presentation space and future fire pit.
Completed community art project called Frozen Voyage conceived and led by Akshata Naik
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Call to Action # 83 calls upon artists and the community to collaborate and create projects that contribute to the reconciliation process.
Inspired by this Call to Action, eight indigenous and eight non-indigenous artists embarked on a quest for truth and reconciliation through sharing, learning and collaboration. The result is a linked series of artworks that honestly and respectfully reflects past experiences while envisioning a future toward reconciliation.
In the spirit of reconciliation, the Town of Collingwood showcased aluminum versions of the Call to Action #83 artwork series in Council Chambers and invited the public to view the panels.
To kick off the display, an event was held at the Simcoe Street Theatre called Envisioning A Future Toward Reconciliation at which Project Curator, Mary Louise Meiers led a presentation and reflection with artists Peter Adams and Paul Shilling and presiding elders Jeff Monague, Myiingan, former Chief of Beausoleil First Nation and Austin Clarkson, Director, The Milkweed Collective.
The Healing Dress-Missing by Jennie Clark
End of Oppression by Paul Shilling Dazaungee
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
More About the Awen' Gathering Place
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.
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: