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Norval’s pollinator canoe: a tribute to culture, history and education

Norval’s pollinator canoe: a tribute to culture, history and education

In a gracious local gesture towards healing and reconciliation, Chief R. Stacey LaForme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation began the dedication of a pollinator canoe on the banks of Credit River in Norval, to all the “nations who have walked these lands.”

Halton Hills, which currently includes Georgetown, Acton, Glen Williams, Norval and Limehouse, was part of Treaty 19, the Ajetance Purchase of 1818, according to this map available online through the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation:

The symbolic metal canoe filled with local pollinator plants was commissioned from local metalwork artist Doris Treleaven with a Canada 150 grant initiated by the Norval Community Association (NCA). The dedication on June 2 marked the completion of this canoe project. Among those present for the occasion were: Chief R. Stacey LaForme, Dr. Debbie Danard and Kevin Best who performed the water ceremony, Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette. HH Councillor Bob Inglis representing the Credit Valley Conservation Board of Directors as well as the Credit Valley Trail (CVT) Leadership Council, Kathy Gastle and Carolyn Martin of the NCA. The event opened with the opportunity for all to smudge. Dr. Danard led the Water Ceremony, which took place on the riverbank. All present were given tobacco to commit to the water or the sacred fire.

Then all moved to the top of the hill at McNabb Park where the canoe has been placed for the dedication and plaque unveiling. NCA’s Kathy Gastle explained that when the group was brainstorming a suitable idea to mark Canada 150, the inukshuk came up, but, that wasn’t meaningful in this area, so the idea of a symbolic canoe was pursued.

The NCA offers the canoe as a lasting tribute to the indigenous people of these lands, “a new beginning on the way to having the entire Credit Valley Trail dedicated to the relationship with both the First Peoples and Mother Earth.”

Chief LaForme told a great story about losing a canoe race to his brother, even though the winner’s boat was full of water, showing the solidness of the canoe. He noted that when he first saw this metal canoe, he had to think a minute. But then said, “If my people had had metal, and it floated, they would have used it!”

He said the sculpture would be a great “tribute to culture, history and education.”

Councillor Bob Inglis said in his remarks that he hoped the canoe would “inspire a generation of water keepers to come.”

According to the CVT, the pollinator canoe in McNabb Park represents how the Credit Valley Trail will “return the voices of the nation’s first people to the banks of the river.” The CVT will be built on the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. When completed, the CVT will be a continuous 100-kilometer pathway through the Credit River Valley, from the headwaters in Orangeville to Lake Ontario at Port Credit. The pollinator aspect of the installation consists of two sources: in the canoe and the host bed along the rail fence by the parking lot. Here is a list of these local plants:

Pollinator Plants in Canoe - Pearly Everlast, Black Eyed Susan, Purple Asters, Bee Balm, Switch Grass, Joe Pye Weed.

Host Garden Plants - Columbine- Aquilegia Canadensis, Common Milkweed, Woodland Sunflowers, Agastache, Golden Rod, Purple Cone Flower, Gas Plants, Dill, Fennel.

As part of his remarks, Chief LaForme read a poem he wrote. He has kindly allowed the text to appear here. Mother

Why do you hurt me? when I have nothing but love for you?

I have seen you crawl from the dark into the light.

I have watched you learn to walk and then to fly.

I have seen you squabble and fight.

I have cheered for you and I have feared for you.

I give freely of what is mine to give.

Yet you take more than I am able,

You hurt me, more and more, you ignore my pain and my cries.

I am ancient, but I am not immortal.

I have a time, why do you seek to rob me of it.

Through the years I have been here for you and yours.

For your grandmothers and their grandmothers and their grandmothers.

I would stay to see your children raise their children but I cannot.

For I am dying, I do not measure the passing of time as you do.

Nevertheless, I know my time is coming and it is soon.

I love you my children, but I fear I will fail you.

And even though, you have failed me first.

Anger is not in me, for I was created of love, as were you.

Therefore, the toughest part of goodbye,

Is knowing that you cannot go on without me.

That your time will end, far too soon and no one will know,

This great journey this grand adventure called humanity,

Will be undone as if it never existed.

I will care for you as long as I am able

Yet, when the rivers no longer flow, when the trees die,

When the wind rages and the storms come,

Know that it is not my anger; it is the end of the love.

The love I can no longer give, the love you can no longer take.

It is my end, and it is yours.

- R. Stacey Laforme


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