By Bob Goulais
KETTLE AND STONY POINT – It is exceptionally rare for full-fledged Midewiwin ceremonies to be held in Anishinabek Nation territory. After all, the Midewiwin consists of Anishinabek people from right across Turtle Island, including Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Manitoba. So rare in fact, that it will be the first time Midewiwin Ceremonies will be held at Kettle and Stony Point in over eighty years.
“1926 was the last time there was a Midewiwin ceremony at Kettle Point. 1929 was the time the Grandfather Water Drum left,” said Jason Henry, a citizen on Kettle Point and one of the organizers for the Harvest Thanksgiving Ceremonies.
The Grandfather Water Drum is the presiding drum of the Midewiwin Lodge and is the embodiment of Mide-manidoo, the Midewiwin Spirit. Three Fires Society Grand Chief Edward Benton-Banai and Eastern Doorway Chief Jim Dumont will lead the ceremonies over four days.
The Harvest Thanksgiving Ceremonies will be held at the Lambton Centre in Kettle and Stony Point from October 5-8, 2006. Lodge building will take place earlier in the week with the sacred fire will be lit Thursday, October 5 at sunrise.
“Our community is so ready for this. The general feeling is that these ceremonies would be beneficial. People are saying it’s a good thing and they support it including a lot of youth,” said Henry.
The people of Kettle and Stony Point have had their share of challenges including the annexation and reclamation of Camp Ipperwash and Ipperwash Provincial Park, culminating in the tragic shooting death of Anthony ‘Dudley’ George in 1995. Most recently, according to Henry, the First Nation is dealing with prescription drug abuse and coping with the seemingly endless deaths of elders and community members.
With the hosting of the 2005 Anishinabek Nation Unity Gathering, and now with the hosting of Three Fires Midewiwin Ceremonies, the fortunes of the community are begin to change and community healing is taking place.
“There is still a lot of healing work that we all must do,” said Henry. “The hosting of these ceremonies will go a long way to deal with our social problems.”
Among the ceremonies that take place include pipe ceremonies, women’s water ceremonies, feasts, socials and sweat lodges. Initiates of the Three Fires Midewiwin Society will be presented with their sacred Megis Shell, which symbolizes new life and our link with the Spirit World.
“As one of the first few Midewiwin people, we had to go out somewhere and find that life and bring it back. But this year, we have ten new initiates,” said Henry. “They are going to experience part of their journey in their own community and with their family.”
A lot of preparation went into simply exploring the idea to host such an event, which will bring in between 800-1000 traditional people, local participants and visitors. Part of that preparation includes learning more about the significance of their own First Nation and its role in Midewiwin history.
“We talked about the Migration and our ancestors that were established here in Kettle Point. At some point in our history, some of our people moved across Lake Huron to Black Swan Creek (present day Mount Pleasant). That was were the name Aazhoodenah, crossing over town, came from. That’s where the Migration left here and went towards the west,” said Jason Henry.
One thing is clear, the Midewiwin Lodge and the Grandfather Water Drum was always home in Kettle and Stony Point. The evidence is in the mysterious round concretions, called the ‘kettles’.
“No matter where those round stones are, the Grandfather (water drum) was there. There is no question in that,” concluded Henry.