Wagiiwing (a place of refuge)

Riding Mountain National Park


People weren't even half a mile away and they could see their homes being burnt. And it's so hard to fathom that in this century to have your people being removed from where they lived all their lives, their livelihood, their total independence being pulled out from under them. This whole place called a national park was once our Walmart. It provided everything for the people. Our shelter. Our food. Our clothing. And plus our spiritual ceremonial practices. So everything was right here that we needed. And I guess when the visitors saw the pristine area, how beautiful it looked, they wanted to keep it that way. And I'm glad they did. I think that was one good thing that did happen was a park was created. The unfortunate thing was the original inhabitants were kicked

out of the area. You know, how I learned about it was I went there with my Dad one time. It was way back in the late seventies. And he was the one who told me that this was where we used live. But when I went with him we went to the cemetary there. and it was almost like he was sneaking into the area. You could tell that he didn't feel comfortable. Twenty-six years I went inside that park, sneaked in there. and I got caught three times. See, nobody goes in there now all the hunters that used to sneak in the park, they're all gone. I'm the only one left that trapped in there. I shouldn't say anything. They might come and pick me up. I got caught three times in the park. Reconciliation has to be a true reconciliation. If I hurt you today in any way, and I apologize to you, do I just walk away and leave you or do I try and make amends. I should try and make amends. Depending on the level of hurt that I presented to you, I should try and make amends. The level of hurt that was presented to our people was the total extinguishment of

their life that they had at that time and a loss of their lands and a loss of the lake that they used so freely. Can you imagine being told that you have to stay home now.you can't even shop in town. That's how our people felt at that time. Those stories need to be told. Those feelings need to be

shared, so that the understanding is there. Reconciliation has got many potentially different meanings. To an accoutant reconciliation means balancing the financial sheet. To a lawyer, reconciliation is when a couple get back together to prevent a divorce. The reconciliation between

nations means the establishment of a peace accord. So when it comes to the Anishinabe people of this area and the people who manage this park. That relationship is going to be in a constant state of flux. And so if you take a snapshot of it at any particular point in time, you may see

that at that particular point it tends to look like it's favouring one side or the other. The issue is: how balanced is it over the the long-term?

In my past we always had fights with the white people. Cause they wanna run everything. But now, Indians got education. They can argue with people now. So I think we should get

along maybe better in the coming years. Ten years ago, I would never want to be in the same room with

Parks Canada people. That was 10 years ago, but today I feel different. I had a lot of resentment on trying to work with people that forcibly removed my grandparents family out from

their homes. Well, first of all was we had to deal with the land claim. And then, now what are we gonna do? We're not going anywhere and you're not going anywhere so how do we get

along? because they didn't understand what the medicines meant to I guess I felt very hostile towards Riding Mountain National Park

us. The medicines out there were given to us to use to survive and for that to be taken away from us made me very angry. I didn't let that stop me even though we were not allowed to go in there at one time, we still went. When we got our land claim settled and we were given the freedom to be able to go back

our land, it was a relief. To me, that's healing. That's reconciliation. By saying, in words, I'm sorry we took away all of this from you. But it will no longer happen.

There has been a lot of change since I've been here. The more aboriginal, the jobs that are being in place. It's just more aboriginal support and the culture being brought out more

openly now rather than being hidden. A lot of comments were made that I'm only here because I'm aboriginal and not because of what I knew or because of what my education was. Yes, I am aboriginal and I was hired off of an aboriginal list but I come and I've worked just like everybody else. It's up to us to teach our children the proper ways. OK, we need to stop the racism. We are one people and if we work together as one maybe we'd be a lot more happier, and you won't have the oh, well you're white and I'm native. I even get comments from our own people. Our own people harass you because you're in a parks uniform. They're like, "you're just trying to be white." That's the comment that the aboriginal people will give you. It could be from all the hurtful things that they've gone through in the past with the white man, you know. All the hurt from the residential

schools, us being removed from our land because of national parks. The white man have pretty much booted us off everywhere and took over the land, and so the aboriginal people are very cut deep with that. That's what they should be talking about. And talking about and talking about yes the inhabitants of the original peoples that were here are still here. And they're located along the sides of the park. But that truth should be told to how they were taken off the land. It gives you more respect, I think. It gives both parties more respect because the visitors that came here just didn't say "Oh wow, look at this great land. I'm glad no one's here." We were here. When we're working with aboriginal people and incorporating culture, it's saying that it's OK because in the past they were told that their culture is not OK, they're language is not OK. So when we're starting on that basis, where we're working to incorporate their culture into what we know, it's a builder. We were put in residential schools and there was a lot of fear instilled. They would tell us our ways like somebody doing a pipe ceremony or lodges like that we were working for the devil that we were gonna burn in hell if we practiced that. That's where the appreciation for the richness of Anishinabe culture comes in is that people are seeing and hearing that and it becomes less of a two-dimensional thing because they've experienced it. And, I think it opens their hearts and minds to really getting to know the Anishinabe in a way that they probably never could have. When we're working with indigenous people and Anishinabe people here, language is very important for them too. What would it mean let's say, to an Anishinabe person driving into the park, what would it mean to them to drive in and see the name Riding Mountain National Park and then right next to it the Anishinabe? What would it tell them? Well, I think if national parks were able to do that it would ease up that very myth about the founding nations: French and English as the founding nations. French people are more recognized in terms of a nation in North America than First Nations. English defeated them right? French people are going to kill me for saying that. But those are the kinds of things I think we need to correct and we can do that together with Parks and with us, putting that history together. But I like the idea of, you know, at the entrance of Riding Mountain National Park to say, well, this is the English name. This is French name. And this is the First Nations name.


Documentary by: Christopher Paetkau

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© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by Parks Canada, 2010.

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Wagiiwing (a place of refuge) by Christopher Paetkau. Riding Mountain Field Unit (Manitoba). Canada's Greatest Summer Job. As part of the celebrations to mark the 125th anniversary of national parks in Canada (2010), 32 student video reporters worked in the 32 Parks Canada field units across the country. Students were tasked with producing a series of video reports on their experiences in our national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas.

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