'The River Mouth Speaks' opens at Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre

Feature/First Nations


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(L) Museum Director-Curator, Barbara Ribey, Environmental Officer Jake Linklater, Elder Vernon Root, Saugeen Chief Randall Kaghee, Saugeen Shores Mayor Mike Smith and Nawash Interim Chief, Scott Lee

An unusually high ribbon cutting

An historic event saw two communities in Saugeen Shores come together in an effort to preserve and give an insight into an ancient aboriginal past.

'Heads of State'

 (L) Nawash Interim Chief Scott Lee, Saugeen Shores & Bruce County Warden, Mike Smith and Saugeen (SON) Chief Randall Kahgee,

The event was the official opening of "The River Mouth Speaks" exhibit between the First Nations people and the municipality of Saugeen Shores at the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre in Southampton on July 19.

More than 200 people turned out to hear and watch the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) dancers and drummers demonstrate the spiritual aspects of the First Nation culture and to see first-hand the new exhibit.

SON dancers and drummers

Saugeen Elder, Vernon Root, lead the event with words in the ancient Ojibway language' and also conducted the spiritual sweetgrass 'smudge' that 'cleanses' those in attendance.

Elder Vernon Root performs spiritual smudge for ribbon cutting

The 'River Mouth' initiative between SON and Saugeen Shores municipality is a result of a recent aboriginal archaeological site discovered at the mouth of the Saugeen River, when a local sewer infrastructure project was implemented in 2010. 

On the first day that the project began, ancient artifacts were uncovered and, at the request of SON,  the digging by Saugeen Shores Town staff, under direction of Dave Burnside, was immediately stopped.

On-site watch

(L) Theresa Root, Lori Kewaquom, Yolande Mitchell & Ron Greywolf

The site was cordoned off and, until the excavation by a team of professional archaeologists began, the First Nations people maintained a vigilence 24 hours a day.

First visitors to the exhibit found the details fascinating

What was discovered was a surprise to everyone involved.  Archaeologist Dr. Bill Fitzgerald, who headed up the project and who works with the First Nations people, said that many of the items uncovered were at least 2,000 years old while some were older.

The mouth of the Saugeen River that flows into Lake Huron was always thought to be a native camping or temporary living site but, through time, the history of it had deteriorated or been lost.

The official opening of 'The River Mouth Speaks' is viewed as a first when it comes to cooperation between communities and cultures. 

"I was little bit torn about this evening and opening," said Lee of Nawash.  "After seeing the recognition of our existence and the past ... this is the beginning of a relationship between our cultures."

Chief Randall Kahgee paid tribute to former Nawash Chief Ackewenzie (deceased).  "As a legal advisor to Saugeen First Nation, I didn't know if I would fit into the role of Chief," said Kaghee, "but Chief Ackewenzie gave me some good advice ... you have to be humble, never profess to know more than you do, listen more than talk and many other teachings."

"Our two communities," added Kahgee, "have learned they have much in common.  Sometimes we forget to take the time to listen and to talk ... I am proud of the agreement we have reached with the Town of Saugeen Shores and it is something other communities should support.  Within hours of the archaeology discovery, the town and our people were mobilized and began to talk about how we could move forward together."

Kahgee went on to say that, "We all have a role to play in this country and we can't forget the sacrifices that our people have had to make to be here.  We are still here to listen and to share and that says a lot about our people."

Saugeen Shores Mayor and Bruce County Warden, Mike Smith, said that it was "... an historic night and the exhibit tells a story of the people who were, and are, here.  The friendships and co-operation we have forged, I will always cherish."

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Friday, July 22, 2011