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MNO Canoe Expedition - Owen Sound

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Owen Sound
The Expedition arrives in Owen Sound to celebrate National Aboriginal Day
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The following is an excerpt from the Expedition Journal of Elizabeth Clapin:June 21 was National Aboriginal Day, and we celebrated with the MNO Great Lakes Métis  Council in Owen Sound. The sun was shining, the wind was gusting by the bay, and everyone was happily mingling. Usually I feel jealous of the paddlers because I miss being in the boat, yet I know better than to volunteer myself for eight hours of paddling. However, on this day I was dehydrated and perfectly content watching them from dry land.I began mingling right away, and a woman from the MNO education and training branch, named Jessica, invited me to play her drum and sing with the group. I was ecstatic that she offered! I didn’t want it to seem like I was going to ask (rather than being offered, and there is indeed a big difference) but I am quite sure she could tell how excited I was when she let me hold her drum.“Our drums are our Grandmothers; all we ask is that she is treated with respect. Never lay her face down, and wrap her in a blanket on a cool damp day.” Ellen offered when I asked her about the responsibilities and possible taboos of drumming.Indeed I was happy to play the drum with the group. I think I did well at maintaining the rhythm, catching on to changes in the pattern, and handled the drum in a respectful way.  I wanted to learn to sing their traditional songs just as badly as I wanted to play the drums…..but every time I’d open up to sing, I would belt out the verse just a line too late.After talking some poor patrons’ ears off; sitting by myself for a moment allowed me to watch the event and reflect. This event went swimmingly- it was the cat’s pyjamas. I attempted to find a reason for the great success of the event: It seems clear to me that if not for the passion of the community members, and our pride in our culture and heritage, the event would have been less than perfect. Our jigging and games portion of our cultural interpretation bit can last only 5 minutes each if the community shows signs of boredom.  However this event saw many patrons from the Owen Sound area Métis volunteering to participate.When we got to the MNO office in Owen Sound, Susan offered me some dried sage. I happily accepted the sage, and smelled it…I did that many times because I really enjoyed the smell of it.  I offered many people around me to smell it as well- although it probably wasn’t a novelty for them as it was for me. Little did I know Susan had graciously put together “loot bags” for the MCE, which contained some sacred medicine, including tobacco, sage, and sweet grass. I gave all of those a good whiff, but sage is definitely my favourite aroma now that I know better.On behalf of the MNO Canoe Expedition, I would like to thank the patrons that came to celebrate National Aboriginal Day with us; and the Great Lakes Council for their superb hospitality. Best Aboriginal Day I ever had--so far at least (after all it was my first time celebrating National Aboriginal Day). I’m pretty sure I’ll be looking for my Métis community in Ottawa when I get back to ensure that I learn more crafts and don’t miss any more Aboriginal Days!Some people celebrate their first Aboriginal Day as infants, some as twenty-three year olds, and some as fifty year olds! It doesn’t matter how old you are when you engage in your community, or how you express your culture. We are a very accepting (not to mention fun) community. Check out your local MNO office and get involved. I’m also pretty sure you don’t have to be Aboriginal to celebrate National Aboriginal Day; in fact the only pre-requisite is a good attitude and respectful conduct. 

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