This project provided an opportunity for elders from Treaty 3 communities to gather together in a one-day facilitated session to discuss the origins, background, meaning, vision and aspirations they, as partners in the Common Ground initiative, hold for Common Ground.
In Anishinaabe tradition, community elders are the esteemed holders of sacred and deep cultural knowledge. They are the wise leaders who provide guidance to the community on all matters, while also carrying and passing on traditions, teachings and ceremonies to younger generations. Each elder is endowed with unique gifts. Within the Common Ground initiative, elders who have participated in Common Ground have done so at the direction of the Chief and Council and they have been chosen on the basis of the gifts that they have to offer and share that are relevant to this process. This project provided an opportunity for these elders who have been appointed by the leadership to gather for discussion and to provide guidance to the Common Ground partnership.
Many involved with the initiative believe that Common Ground may present an opportunity for people of different cultures to gain insight into different world views, to understand the relationships people have with one another and with the shared natural world, and to endeavor to reconcile divergent, and sometimes conflicting, world views. To ensure this sharing and learning happens most effectively, it is important that the constituent members of the partnership know how best to share teachings and traditional knowledge, what messages to relay to those of another culture, how best to bridge any divides that may appear. It is important that the partner groups have a firm understanding of their own values, beliefs, visions and aspirations for what may come of the Common Ground initiative.
While the feasts and ceremonies have provided opportunities for people generally to gather for the purpose of honoring the land, water, spirits and relationship, to date no other forum has emerged in which elders involved with the Common Ground initiative, specifically, may gather to discuss relevant matters.
Beyond simply having the Common Ground elders gather to discuss matters related to Common Ground, the goal of this forum was for the formal corporate partners to the Rat Portage Conservation Organization, as well as possibly the public at large, to gain direction, guidance and insights from the elders. Though no specific resulting directions were anticipated, the elders offered different cultural perspectives, and articulated some guiding principles, that will guide the Rat Portage Common Ground Conservation Organization corporation and the partner communities as they move forward with this important, sacred shared relationship.
Elders from the RPCGCO constituent communities of Obashkaadaagaang Bay First Nation, Ochiichagwe’babigo’ining Ojibwe Nation and Wauzhushk Onigum Nation were invited to participate in a single day workshop to be held by Grand Council Treaty #3. In addition, elders from other neighboring communities who have been involved in the Common Ground process – either through feasts, ceremonies, planning meetings, or through the Common Land, Common Ground meetings – were also invited.
The session was held March 23, 2013 at Minis Hall in Kenora, and was facilitated by Adolphus Cameron, who is fluent in both Ojibwe and English. A final report from the session is available here: TUNNEL ISLAND ELDERS GATHERING