Art For Indigenous Survival

Algonquin People of Pikwakanagan, Ontario

October, 2010

Irma and I traveled north to Canada and found the Algonquin Reserve known as Pikwakanagan on Golden Lake. The Algonquin people had hunted and fished the lush Ottawa River Valley for hundreds if not thousands of years. Then with the addition of French and English hunters and settlers, the land and wildlife could no longer support a hunting people. This western band numbers 426 on the Reserve with about 700 living off the Reserve. The Reserve covers 1,745 acres of trees, ponds, streams and shoreline along beautiful Golden Lake.

Golden Lake

We settled in to teach at the Algonquin Cultural Center where Michele curated the museum collection and Pearl ran the gift shop. The center consists of two log cabins joined together with a welcome area, a gift shop, an extensive artifact collection, work areas and offices. These tireless workers hold traditional ceremonies, teach the Algonquin language, conduct art and craft workshops and maintain the extensive museum collection.

Craft workers

We began slowly making Snow Buntings and then moved on to Loons, Bald Eagles, Cranes, Wolf heads and Bear heads. Jill finished a Loon and an Eagle after hours of patiently cleaning the museum artifacts with tiny erasers, tweezers, a hand vacuum and a brush. She very carefully alternated treatments until the ancient artifact looked almost new.

Stuffed Bald Eagle

During our month long stay, Moose hunting season began. Madeline, from the evening class, was known throughout the Reserve as baking the best Moose meat pies. She trades pies with the hunters for the meat. I ordered one to take back to North Carolina. Everyone at home agreed, it was delicious.

Stuffed Loon

As our month drew to an end, everyone hurried to finish. On the last day, many of our participants were unable to be present for the good-by picture due to a funeral of a tribal member. We took the picture anyway and said good-by. It had been a fun month up north in Canada and I'm going to miss all of the smiling faces, the Algonquin village named Pikwakanagan and the beautiful lake called Golden.

Group Picture