Manitoulin group named chapter of the year

MANITOWANING – For the fifth year in a row, Manitoulin Island was filled with the deafening sound of thunder on Labour Day weekend as the Redrum Motorcycle Club’s Spirit Island chapter hosted its annual Thunder Run, which was also the first-ever world run for the Indigenous-led motorcycle club with chapters around the globe.

“It was very overwhelming. I’m still coming down off the weekend high from seeing all my brothers, some of whom I saw for the first time and some who I’ve seen many times,” said Redrum Spirit Island chapter president Robbie Shawana.

“We had quite a bit of bikes. It was not just Redrum members, other clubs came too. Different people joined throughout the ride; it seemed to be getting bigger as we were going along,” he said.

Redrum is an international motorcycle club that has its roots with Indigenous bikers who joined forces to celebrate brotherhood, community, respect, responsibility and supporting people in need. They adopted the slogan ‘spreading positivity on two wheels’ as a testament to their demeanour which contrasts with the perceived behaviour of outlaw motorcycle clubs.

This run, as in years past, is designed to raise money for the Good Food Box program, an aspect of the Manitoulin Community Fresh Food Initiative. Mr. Shawana did not wish to disclose the total raised as of press time, instead opting to keep the number a surprise until the cheque presentation later in September.

The Redrum world run itself attracted both its own members from across North America and members of other clubs who came to ride in solidarity with their Indigenous counterparts. Riders came in from as far as Edmonton, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia, among other US locations. Mr. Shawana said one member recorded his total round-trip distance as being 5,100 miles—that’s 8,207 kilometres.

Just after 11 am, the bikes roared to life and began to roll toward Wiikwemkoong. A video shot by the gentleman standing in the road is available on Redrum Motorcycle Club’s Facebook page.

“Spirit Island was our sponsoring chapter when we were starting out in Treaty 3 (based near Lake of the Woods),” said Paul Nicholson, who travelled in with a good number of Treaty 3 chapter members. He said it was important to support the group which had done so much for them in their inception and extended his thanks to the Spirit Island chapter.

Just after 11 am, Mr. Shawana called all to attention and thanked everyone for travelling in to the Assiginack Curling Club for the event. An American Sign Language interpreter stood by his side and relayed his messages for the benefit of a deaf chapter which was also part of the ride.

The route took them in to the Holy Cross Mission ruins in Wiikwemkoong to start, something Mr. Shawana described as an incredible experience.

“When we rode down the main street there were people standing with their kids waiting for the bikes to come by,” he said. “We had a ‘tail gunner’ watching the end of the line who called when the last bikes left the church. I was at the front and we were just approaching the mini mall by then.”

That experience was so memorable that Mr. Shawana said he would add Wiikwemkoong as a permanent stop along the annual Thunder Run route.

The mile-long string of bikes then made their way to 10 Mile Point before rolling up to the powwow in M’Chigeeng. A blanket dance took place there to boost the fundraising for the group.

From the powwow they rode to Gore Bay, Providence Bay and back to the Assiginack Curling Club for a pig roast by Burt Farms. Riders and well-wishers shot many minutes of video footage along the ride and some have been uploaded to the Redrum Motorcycle Club Facebook page.

Food was in abundance throughout the event, with a welcoming barbecue that saw more than 100 bikes turn up at the Shawana residence in Manitowaning on the evening before. The morning registration breakfast was provided by volunteers from Knox United Church Women and St. Paul’s Anglican Church, who shared the proceeds of the morning breakfast. 

Mr. Shawana extended his gratitude to the numerous groups that sponsored the event including several eastern Manitoulin townships and First Nations, the Southeastern Manitoulin Lions Club, Ten Mile Point Gallery and numerous businesses and individuals such as artists who added items to the fundraiser auction at the event.

At the concluding dinner, Pedro Peña who rode up from North Carolina announced that the Spirit Island chapter had been named chapter of the year within the Redrum organization.

“That was awesome. I was very humbled; they did state that we were the first chapter to break ground in Canada. I wasn’t expecting that at all,” said Mr. Shawana.

As to the outcome of the first-ever world run, he said he could not be happier.

“We set the bar and put Manitoulin on the map. Many of the people who crossed the border had never been to Canada before; what better place to show off than our beautiful Island?” Mr. Shawana said. “Many people said they plan on coming back again, they loved it so much.”

The Spirit Island chapter of Redrum Motorcycle Club will host its sixth annual Thunder Run once more next labour day, with the ride scheduled for Saturday, September 5, 2020.