The Awen’ Gathering Place in Collingwood is a space in Harbourview Park, near the waterfront, that was created to recognize the First Nations presence in South Georgian Bay. For me, this site has an almost mystical quality.
The concept for the Awen’ Gathering Place is based on the teachings of renowned Anishinaabe educator, artist, and poet Dr. Duke Redbird. The structures link the seven layers of the food forest to The Seven Grandfather Teachings.
These Anishinaabe/Midewiwin teachings about the ethics of proper behaviour are linked to lands that were, for thousands of years, the source of life for the Anishinaabeg peoples who gathered foods, medicines, and materials from forests in the area where Collingwood is today.
The seven teachings translate in English to Wisdom, Respect, Honesty, Love, Bravery, Truth and Humility.
Acknowledging the traditional custodians of land have become a critical element in reconciliation. This gathering place, located in the traditional territory of the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, is intended to show respect and to create opportunities for engagement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, strengthening reconciliation.
When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its report in 2015 with 94 calls to action nine of those calls to action directly related to Municipal government.
That year, the Collingwood Arts Symposium featured topics regarding inclusion, diversity, and the role creativity plays in recognizing marginalization and its effects for the first time. The beginnings of the Collingwood Waterfront Master Plan were also marked later that year. The draft plans that emerged contained a “gathering place” feature. Construction was completed in 2018 with official opening ceremony held on September 7th at Harbourview Park.
In my view, the Town of Collingwood has shown itself to be a community that is interested in proactively addressing inclusion, diversity, and reconciliation. Be sure to put the Awen’ Gathering Place on your list if you are visiting the area. Rest here and take some time to reflect.