Hundreds of youth and community members were able to give thanks to the summer season and welcome in the fall with Ogimaawabiitong (Kenora Chiefs Advisory)’s third annual Fall Harvest.

The three-day celebration took place at the KCA Youth and Family Wellness Camp October 16th to 18th, where hundreds of students and community members were able to gather, participate in a number of cultural activities, and learn more about the practices of our Anishinaaabemowin ancestors.

“It’s beautiful,” said Wauzhushk Onigum Chief and KCA Board Member, Chris Skead.

“It’s great to see the youth out and about – seeing how things used to be with processing wild game and meat, stories, skinning, language, drumming… all that good stuff. And the Creator blessed us with some beautiful weather for our youth to enjoy. Really pleased and humbled to be here,” adds Chief Skead.

After opening ceremonies each morning with our Drummers and KCA’s Grandmother Drum, Shawanoong Banaise’seek, emcee Gary Smith, and prayers from local elders George Land and Susan Fobister – youth were able to take part in a variety of cultural activities with local Knowledge Keepers.

Teachings included moose, deer, and caribou harvesting and hide scraping, medicine making and teachings, bear grease making, fish filleting, duck, beaver, and muskrat harvesting, language teachings, Bannock making, wild rice teachings, and a visit from the camp’s Ojibwe Ponies, with traditional Cree games in the field.

“I’m here to check everything out and do lots of cool stuff!” said student Jessie William-Henry, who visited the Fall Harvest with his classmates on October 16.

“I was able to make Bannock and my hands got all sticky. It’s still on the fire. I saw the moose and got to step on some wild rice. I liked the beaver teachings with my new friend. I got to touch the tail and its feet. Me and my new friend then saw the view. It was all really cool!”

Schools from across Treaty #3 including Keewatin Public, Washagamis Bay, Sakatcheway Anishinaabe school, Beaver Brae, Pegamigaabo Elementary, Evergreen Public, Whitedog High School and the Baibombeh Anishinaabe School, as well as members of the Treaty Three Police Service, Northwest EMS, and the Kenora Islanders Junior Hockey club.

“This is what it’s all about,” explains Ogimaawabiitong’s Executive Director, Jennifer Dreaver.

“We’re standing on a hilltop, overseeing all of these amazing prospector tents…this is an amazing coming-together of traditional healers, knowledge keepers, elders from across our communities – and I’m delighted at the exchange in a place like this.”

“It’s amazing to see young people taking the time to interact with the plants, understand how we harvest and have a relationship with the land. We have two moose that were brought in. It’s amazing to see the processing of the animal, and how we can share that with young people,” adds Dreaver.

“And in a way, the vision of the camp is the promotion of a setting where this knowledge exchange can happen in a really good way, bring people together, and honour the knowledge systems that are in place in the area.”

Ogimaawabiitong would like to send a huge Miigwetch to our Elders and Knowledge Keepers for sharing their wealth of information for our youth across Treaty #3, and to our staff and volunteers who helped to make the 2023 Fall Harvest possible.

Another special Miigwetch to our Drummers and emcee Gary Smith for hosting the three-day celebration, and our Cultural Team members Danika Crow, Crystal Morrison, AJ White, and Patrice Seymour.

“It’s an honor to bring our communities together,” explains Danika Crow, Cultural Services Manager with KCA. “The Cultural Team makes me so proud, the dedication and healing they bring to our people is so greatly appreciated.”

“When you have a team with the same goals of wanting our way of life to be brought forward in a respectful and loving way, it brings that sense of healing, pride and peace to our people. The more we share/teach and acknowledge our way of life, the stronger our people become,” she adds.

“The youth learning and connecting with our elders and land is critical for the generations to come. It teaches us who we are as Anishinaabeg. Our gatherings are what we need to remain as one, I am so grateful to have the support of our elders to continue our healing,

“A special shout out to our Knowledge Keepers, Ronnie P McDonald, Norm and Cherise Campbell, James McDonald, Paul Hartlieb, Mandy White, Jesse, Travis, Tanis, Natasha and Roy Tom, Dieter Sainnawap and Jyles Copenace,” Crow adds.

We’re looking forward to the fourth annual Fall Harvest in 2024!

The Fall Harvest was also made possible in part by the Government of Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Building Communities through Arts and Heritage funding, as well as support from the Peter Gilgan Foundation’s Indigenous Youth Grant program. We send a huge Miigwetch to our partners for allowing us to host such special celebrations, and we are so grateful for their support.