As another season begins, people in the Collingwood area are invited to celebrate the change of seasons in ceremony with Indigenous people, who have offered to share food, customs, and teachings on the occasion.
Throughout the year, the local Indigenous community has been inviting the public to join them in ceremonies, sharing circles, and gatherings at the Awen Gathering Circle.
Behind many of the events has been the Collingwood Indigenous Circle, and one of its founders Muckpaloo Ipeelie, an Inuk who has made it a professional and personal mission to connect Indigenous people through the restoration of culture.
"Access to Indigenous culture is part of Truth and Reconciliation because our culture had been systematically oppressed by the education system, by residential schools, and also by the 60s scoop ... their culture was removed from them," said Ipeelie. "Part of Truth and Reconciliation is offering an opportunity to regain your culture."
"Culture is part of self-identity and being grounded in our culture helps us be healthy as a whole person ... not just physically and mentally but spiritually and emotionally, and the spiritual and emotional part is tied to culture," said Ipeelie.
On Sept. 22, there will be a Change of Seasons ceremony at the Awen Gathering Circle beginning at 4 p.m. with a market and food sharing table.
The focus of this latest ceremony, the third of its kind this year, will be on the harvest of gifts that have grown over summer.
"I think it's important that everyone be welcome to this event and to share in the harvest that we have had over the summer," said Ipeelie, who lives in The Blue Mountains. "I'd like people to look around and consider the gifts they have been given from Mother Nature and to pick some of those berries and the garden vegetables and bring them to the Fall Solstice for the food-sharing table."
Ipeelie has helped organize change of seasons ceremonies for the spring, summer and fall this year at Awen Gathering Circle. She said at each event she has met more Indigenous people living in the area who are longing to solidify their culture through family and community.
"A lot of the reaction I get is, 'I didn't know there were this many Indigenous people in Collingwood,'" said Ipeelie. "It's so important to come together ... to make each other stronger. This is where the seeds are starting."
The Sept. 22 event will begin at 4 p.m. with music and vendors and the food sharing table.
"The food sharing table is meant to help us focus on the gifts of Mother Nature, so I'm inviting the community and Indigenous people to bring what they're proud of from the summer," said Ipeelie.
That can include vegetables, fruit, pies, jams, and even a recipe with ingredients that come from the natural grounds of Canada. Any leftovers will be donated to a local foodbank.
At 5 p.m. Elder Jeff Monague, whose Indigenous name is Myiingan Minonaakwhe, will teach about ceremony, what it means, and ceremony etiquette. Myiingan Minonaakwhe is from Eagle Clan and is a former chief of the Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island.
Jillian Morris will be sharing poetry at the solstice gathering. Morris is Kanien’kehaka and a band member of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. She is from Turtle Clan, and is the current poet laureate for the Town of Collingwood.
Following the teachings and ceremony, Jennifer Mcfarlane will be leading participants in Indigenous-centred games. She is Métis and lives in Wasaga Beach.
Ipeelie, Minonaakwhe, Morris, and Mcfarlane represent four nations – Inuit, Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, and Métis respectively.
"I'm really proud that we have four different nations coming," said Ipeelie. "I think that's pretty awesome and pretty unique."
Those attending the event may wish to bring a small gift for those who will be teaching. Many First Nations have a custom of reciprocity for knowledge shared, which involves bringing medicines (tobacco ties, cedar leaves, dried sage, or sweetgrass braids) as a show of gratitude and respect for teachers and knowledge.
Those four medicines are not part of Inuit way of life as they do not grow in the arctic, but they, as well as tea and coffee, are welcome gifts.
There will be events at the Awen Circle on Sept. 30 for National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. Details for the local events will come soon.