The change from winter to spring brings literal and figurative brighter days, which were cause for celebration and reflection during a change of seasons ceremony held at Awen Gathering Circle on Sunday.
James Carpenter, an Indigenous elder, knowledge keeper and traditional healer, led a crowd of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the ceremony, teaching them to say hello in Ojibwe and sing a song. The ceremony, as it happened, also fell on the first day of spring.
Carpenter reminded the crowd of the renewal that spring brings in the air, water, land, and spirit.
“It was special to see the greater community of the town come out and support us. It shows the hearts of our community are in the right place,” said Carpenter. “With the first day of spring and some restrictions lifting, to me, it was beautiful.”
The March 20 event was one of the first public ceremonies to take place at the Awen Gathering Circle in Harbourview Park since it was officially opened and dedicated in a ceremony also led by Carpenter.
“I got to teach the greater community a few words, we got to sing a song, and I helped them remember their connection to Mother Earth,” said Carpenter. “I think everyone feels it and knows it, their connection to the air, the water, the land, the spirit, and the sacred fire. It’s important to teach them about spirit and remind them that renewal is on the way.”
Collingwood resident, Muckpaloo Ipeelie, who is Inuk, was one of the organizers of Sunday’s event. She started a Facebook page called Collingwood Indigenous Circle and joined the town’s Unity Collective, and has made it a personal goal to help facilitate more gatherings for Indigenous people living in Collingwood.
“We have been yearning for this connection for a long time,” said Ipeelie as she introduced the ceremony on Sunday “Today is also a celebration that we have found each other here in Collingwood.”
This was the first in-person event she organized for the Circle, with help from town staff, Carpenter, and the Unity Collective.
“Yesterday was a very symbolic day for several reasons,” said Ipeelie in an interview Monday with CollingwoodToday. “First because of the change of seasons, and secondly because we are turning a new leaf as Indigenous people in Collingwood.”
She noted there were members of town staff and council there to take part in the ceremony.
“These are people involved in making Collingwood more inclusive and they were able to see how many Indigenous people were there, that was important for me,” said Ipeelie.
Carpenter, who has led ceremonies at the gathering circle and offered teaching at formal town events, said he is proud of the town of Collingwood for building the gathering circle and for the hard work being done to be inclusive to First Nations.
“The town’s always been open to the idea of wanting to learn and share,” said Carpenter. “What better way to share in your community than by loving your community? And the town does love their community, or else [the Awen Circle] wouldn’t be there.”
The day has encouraged Ipeelie, who met several Indigenous people living in Collingwood and received many offers of help to organize future events and outreaches.
There will be another event on June 21, which will include an unveiling for Inuit culture. More details will be announced soon.