It’s the end of the summer holidays and this will be the last post in my reconciliation is a verb series. And it’s a good one!
It’s one thing to write about something. It’s another to experience it.
Last week I spent 4 days on Manitoulin Island. It was my mom’s 80th birthday trip and she, myself, my daughter and friends of ours drove up together. We rented a cabin by the water and spent our days exploring a very small part of the island. Manitoulin Island has a strong Indigenous presence. Some of the land is unceeded territory.
I could tell you how beautiful Manitoulin Island is. How the energy is amazing and how I felt peaceful and grounded and can’t wait to go back. But that’s not what I want to write about today.
What I want to tell you about is the highlight of our trip: we met an artist named Mishibinijima. Also known as James Simon (his government name) he lives and has an art gallery in Wikwemikong – an unceeded part of Manitoulin Island.
Mishibinijima is a world-renowned artist. I had goosebumps from head to toe within seconds of walking into his gallery. And when we took everyone back the next day, we sat on his floor as he told us about his art, the powerful images of mother earth, and some of the history of the Island and his people. Manitoulin Island was a place where different nations would come to talk, negotiate, make peace. It’s has a powerful energy about it – for that reason or maybe it’s why it was chosen. He talked about the treaties that are still being disputed (and how talks have to reopen every time the government changes,) and the ways language was interpreted in the White man’s favour (for example, Manitoulin Island actually is Manitoulin Islands – plural – and they extend all the way south to Florida. Had that been understood and taken seriously imagine how things may be different for Indigenous Peoples today.)
That meeting set the stage for the rest of our trip, and because of his insight and awareness we were able to go to Dreamer’s Rock. It’s on sacred land, and we needed permission from the Whitefish Band to access it. We received that permission and we went. Even my mother made it almost to the top. It’s a powerful place for vision and healing and it was an honour to be allowed to be there.
As we walked through the forest along the trail, my mother said to me: “It’s amazing. Indigenous people are welcoming. Look, they have allowed us to be here, on their sacred land. They don’t leave anyone out.”
I think that’s where I’ll end this post and this series.
Food for thought from my 80-year-old mother.
We could learn much from a people who have experienced genocide, cultural appropriation, have been dismissed, disregarded and rendered invisible. And yet…are willing to share something that is sacred to them.
Thank you Mishibinijima for seeing us, for sharing with us, and for facilitating a truly special part of our journey.