WHITEFISH RIVER FIRST NATION – Minister of Indigenous Services the Honourable Marc Miller brought a considerable entourage with him as he toured Whitefish River First Nation (WRFN) on Friday, February 14.
“This is an opportunity for us to really get a sense of how the community is building and the amazing work, particularly with the youth,” said Minister Miller, following his tour of the Shawanosowe School and the new Maamwe Kendaasing Early Learning Centre. “The education here is run by the community on their terms. You can see Jordan’s Principle in action.”
The minister also shared that it was great to see “how some of the work we deploy in Ottawa gets materialized in the community.”
Minister Miller said that a key part of his job is to help close the socio-economic gap that still exists. “It is not an easy job, but it is an important one that we get right,” he said.
Minister Miller was greeted at WRFN by Ogimaa Shining Turtle and a number of officials from the community, taking part in a pipe ceremony conducted by Ogimaa Shining Turtle while two drum songs were presented. Minister Miller shared the pipe with the chiefs present.
One of the songs invoked the spirits, calling them to assist the community, while the second was a song invoking Dreamer’s Rock, a place that the community goes for healing.
As the second song played, Ogimaa Shining Turtle, Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare and Minister Miller each grasped a feather at the corner of the drum. Community member Wilfred Cywink held the eagle staff through the ceremony. The ceremony was meant “to help us heal,” shared Ogimaa Shining Turtle.
“Our ceremonies are an important part of our community,” said Ogimaa Shining Turtle.
An exchange of gifts followed, with Ogimaa Shining Turtle presenting the minister with a blanket, which band manager Art Jacko placed over the minister’s shoulders. In turn, the minister presented the band with a painting.
Following the greetings at the band administration offices, the minister toured the community’s new daycare and Shawanosowe School. The minister was greeted by students from the school. Student Olivia Pelletier presented the minister with a gift of a beaded medallion, which she hung about his neck while staff and students sang a water song.
“The water is getting dirty,” offered student Lily Bowerman to the minister. “We have to clean it.”
The minister then met with the community at the community centre and held a conversation with chief and council, including issues such as community development, the attachment to reserves of Moose Point (the process by which land purchased by the band is added to the reserve, a process that usually takes about 12 years) that has been ongoing since 1987 and an update on the WRFN land claim.