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The Awakening: Expressi ons of traditional Indigenous culture in the city

For more than 100 years, a concerted effort has been made to assimilate the Indigenous cultures but they've not only survived but are making a comeback.

Did you know there's a sweat lodge at the Thunderbird House, for example?

Or that there are drum groups always practicing in the city or pow wow demonstrations during the winter.

There are language classes for both Ojibway and Cree offered at the Millenium Public Library at various times. 

A few minutes after entering the teepee at The Forks, I offered Clarence Nepinak some tobacco because it is the Annishnabe way to make an offering when receiving a teaching.

For the next six weeks every Sunday starting from the third week in January to the last Sunday in February, Clarence and his wife Barbara will be demonstrating to anyone entering the teepee how to make bannock on stick by a fire.

Donna Milliken said, "I was just walking by on my way to the ice sculptures and just dropped by. It's nice and cozy in here and the bannock was good."

Barbara had prepared the bannock dough at home while Clarence was cutting branches to be used for cooking the bannock.

While he was cutting the branches, Clarence reminisced about being very young and going with his grandfather to get eggs.

His grandfather told him to put on his long underwear before going to get the eggs. Clarence wondered why he needed the protection from the cold to go to the store to get some eggs.

Well, his grandfather was on his way to collect quail eggs that were no bigger than Clarence's thumb. 

And that's the way wisdom, culture and community are kept alive in my community.

Now, to be perfectly clear I am an atheist.

I made the offering of tobacco because I have respect. 

The same respect I have when entering a church,synagogue or temple. Or someone's house for that matter.

Some people are under the false presumption that Indigenous people must either embrace the modern world with its technologies and aesthetics or reject it slipping into some sort of recidivist stone age state.

Neither is true.

As an Annishnabe person, I have received teachings and been to ceremonies.

Pow wows, gatherings and ceremonies are not about reviving an almost dead culture but celebrating and sharing it with anyone who wants to participate.

The First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples have not vanished.

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