One of the largest and most exciting stone re-building projects ever undertaken in North America is currently underway at Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) in Bruce County and when finished, it will be a unique North American world class site. Part 2 in the three-part series follows the project throughout 2014 and 2015.
All photos by Saugeen Times
The dry stone walling project will see a major renovation over a number of years of what is known as the Amphitheatre at Saugeen Ojibwa Nation (SON). When the project began, it was expected that it would take 10 years to complete.
The Amphitheatre is located outside of Southampton on the grounds where Wesley United Church, also built of stone, stands. Tiered seating surrounds a stone stage patio and everywhere you look dry-stone walls create one of the most picturesque sites anywhere. It is so picturesque that many weddings are held in the Amphitheatre with its backdrop of the Saugeen River.
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The new re-building project that began some seven years ago was designed to also be a teaching program for Saugeen First Nation residents. Several men of Saugeen have been learning the exacting process of dry-stone walling under the teaching of Master Stone Waller, Dean McLellan and Menno Braam of Hamilton.
McLellan, who lives in Holstein, ON and is only one of six in North America with the designation ‘Master Stone Craftsman’, says that the project has attracted international interest with other stonemasons who have volunteered for the chance to work on-site.”This project is one of the most exciting I’ve ever been involved in,” says McLellan. “There is nothing like this site anywhere. It is incredible and there are other stonemasons who are volunteering to come here just for the chance to work on it.”
Andrew Loudon Master Craftsman and Chief Examiner for the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain was one of those who came in 2015 to work on the project. “I have never seen artistry in working with stone from people who had no former experience like I have here.”
Much of the stone being used has been recycled from the existing stone after the Amphitheatre was dismantled and a large tonnage has also come from coming from Upper Canada Stone in Madoc, Ontario.
There is a four-level certification program in dry-stone walling that takes some five to six years to complete. As part of the certification process, each of the participants from Saugeen First Nation had to dismantle a section of wall that had been previously built and then re-construct it while being strictly timed.
While the four-level certification program takes some five to six years to complete and will provide employment in the future for SON residents, several men reached Stage 1 level of certification in a matter of months.
In 2015, the first annual Saugeen First Nation Stone Festival was held and attracted much attention as visitors crowded on the site to take classes and learn more about the craft of dry-stone walling from experts from England, Scotland and the United States.
During the Festival, five crafters from SON also received certifications at various levels in dry stone walling.
The Saugeen First Nation men also decided to build a monument in memory of missing First Nation women where an annual ceremony honouring the women is held.
The work continues and more Saugeen First Nation men are expected to become involved in the project.