By Nate Smelle
Published March 1 2018
Even though each year millions of tourists from around the world visit Algonquin Park few of these individuals return home from their travels with any more than a fragmented view of the park’s rich cultural history.
On Wednesday March 14 people wanting to attain a deeper understanding of the park’s diverse heritage will have the chance to do so thanks to Christine Luckasavitch – a Madaoueskarini Omaamiwininii Anishinaabekwe an Algonquin woman whose traditional territory is that of the headwaters of the Madawaska River. As part of Yours Outdoors’ Telling Our Stories Speaker Series her presentation Dibaajimowinan: A History of Algonquin Park will explore the living history of the Madaoueskarini Algonquin people; the arrival of European explorers such as David Thompson; chronicle the park’s value as a timber resource and the infamous J. R. Booth; the arrival of great artists and adventurers; and the recent histories of Algonquin Park.
As a non-status Algonquin Anishinaabekwe from Whitney an archaeologist explorer historian researcher and owner of Waaseyaa Consulting (an Indigenous culture and heritage consulting company) Luckasavitch has acquired a vast amount of knowledge regarding the Madaoueskarini Algonquin people’s traditional territory and way of life which she is eager to share. Acknowledging how sacred a place Algonquin Park is to so many she believes people will appreciate it more if they have a fuller understanding of its cultural history.
“Having the unique ability to tell the story – one that has remained virtually untold – is something that is significant” said Luckasavitch.
“It is an important opportunity to re-create the history of this part of the world one that doesn’t conveniently omit factual information that might not be as pretty to speak about.”
Throughout her life Luckasavitch said she has had the privilege of learning about her heritage and the history of Algonquin Park first-hand by living in the area and from listening to and spending time with her family elders and the community. These experiences have taught her that there is no such thing as racial hierarchy and that regardless of race culture or spiritual denomination people must learn to treat each other with patience and with a good heart. They have also revealed to her the strength and resilience of the Algonquin community.
“Though we have endured many many years of cultural suppression our community and familial ties are strong” she said.
“We come together as a large extended family whether to celebrate to grieve or simply spend time together. There is knowledge that has always been held within this community.”
Currently writing her first book Ondjitigweyaa Madaoueskarini Omamiiwiinini Anishinaabe (Algonquin People of the Madawaska River Headwaters) Luckasavitch said the fact that her family’s story is just one of many is a testament to the wealth of local history that exists within the Algonquin community. Pointing out that it was once illegal for Indigenous people to publish in Canada she considers the sharing of Indigenous stories and history by Indigenous people to be an important act of reconciliation. Though in recent years there has been a lot of talk about reconciliation by all levels of government in Canada she said it is time to see those words transform into meaningful actions which develop relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“Reconciliation is such a complex topic especially in the most current context” Luckasavitch said.
“Offering knowledge through sharing of elements of who we are as people – whether through stories or artwork etc. – is so important as it breaks down cultural barriers. It is my hope that together we can rid our communities of the ‘us versus them’ stereotypes by developing meaningful appreciation of cultures different to our own.”
Luckasavitch said the purpose of her presentation is to achieve a complete and participatory experience that provides people with new knowledge and experiences that encourages the coming together of different and unique cultures. Dibaajimowinan: A History of Algonquin Park will take place at the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association Fish Hatchery at 6712 Gelert Rd. Haliburton on Wednesday March 14 from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. Admission is $15 per person with portion of the proceeds going to a conservation organization within the Haliburton area. To register or for more information contact 705-754-3436; or by email at email@example.com.