On March 20, a special Storytelling Orillia event is coming to the people of Orillia and area, in honour of World Storytelling Day. 

Giiwniikewag miinwaa Giimkaajigaazowag: Lost, Forgotten and Found is a recorded online event featuring Chippewas of Rama First Nation Elder and Knowledge Keeper Mark Douglas and Fay Mackenzie, a local teacher, musician, and storyteller. Douglas will tell the story of the Mnjikaning Fish Weirs, the fish fence which was made and used by the Indigenous peoples in this area over 5,000 years ago. 

“The Fish Fence was used for 5,000 years to harvest fish after the long winter and the area became a great meeting place where communities feasted, stories were shared, ceremonies held, and goods were traded,” says Sharon Langfield of Storytelling Orillia. 

“This was a site that was honoured and revered across this continent,” says Susan Charters, also a long-time member of Storytelling Orillia, who notes that the Fish Fence was largely destroyed by a navigation channel dredged by settlers in 1857, according to the Mnjikaning Fish Weirs’ website.

“It’s almost unbelievable to me that the story of this place nearly disappeared,” Charters says.

The theme for World Storytelling Day this year is Lost and Found.

Giiwniikewag miinwaa Giimkaajigaazowag, strictly translated, means “were forgotten and were found,” according to MacKenzie, who teaches Annishinaabemowin (the Ojibwe language) at the Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School in Rama. In English, the event is named Lost, Forgotten and Found.

“In featuring this story and ones that Fay Mackenzie will tell, we hope to support the finding of them, by Indigenous youth, by the community of Orillia, and by a wider audience online,” Langfield explains.

Douglas and Mackenzie will be recorded telling stories and sharing music with Indigenous youth at Rama, and that recording will be shared in the online event on March 20 at 7 p.m. 

Professional photographer and director Keesic Douglas (www.keesic.com) will record the event. The video of the story will be shared with the Chippewas of Rama Culture and Research Dept., and on educational and cultural platforms such as the Orillia Museum of Art and History and the Orillia and District Arts Council websites, and with the Gojijing Truth and Reconciliation Roundtable.

It is vital for Indigenous youth to learn from Indigenous elders, Mark Douglas says. It is important to him to pass on the gifts of storytelling and his knowledge.

Douglas is a recipient of the Civitas award from Lakehead University for his work bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities together through storytelling, and he is a founding member of the Mnjikaning Fish Fence Circle, that since 1993 has sought to protect and commemorate this sacred place.

This project is supported by Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada, the national storytelling organization; and funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. 

Registration for this online event is pay-what-you-can, and you can register for it here https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/lost-forgotten-and-found-giiwniikewag-miinwaa-giimkaajigaazowag-tickets-263929208367

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