The sacred fire burned throughout Walking Together, an afternoon of community knowledge- sharing as more than 100 neighbours and friends gathered in Oxenden to learn and share in an effort to build new relationships and take steps toward righting historic wrongs. The event, held on a large lawn at the Oxenden crossroads, was planned in preparation for the August 13 unveiling of Ajiijak, a piece of public art that will be enlarged from Charmaine (Tauchkwe) Jenner’s original painting and installed as a symbol of the community’s commitment to reconciliation.Inviting ancestors from the east, the north, the west, and the south, requesting the sacred fire connect with the original fire deep within Mother Earth, and then with Grandfather Sun, Fire Keeper Maya-Waasige (John Keeshig) invited guests to make offerings of cedar and tobacco with gratitude and prayers.

As the fire burned, the self-taught Anishinabek artist spoke to the rich symbolism of her stunning painting that speaks not only to our connections to land and water, but also to the seven Grandfather teachings and a spirit of hope and kindness as we move forward, building new relationships built on respect and responsibility to Mother Earth and each other. Drummer/singers Ann-Marie and Stanford White took the stage, offering new insights into the traditions and meanings of their music, introducing and accompanying jingle dancers Abigail and Halle Johnston.

Chippewas of Nawash Chief Veronica Smith spoke of the challenges and possibilities of walking together, forging a new path to reconciliation. Representatives of the Saugeen Objibway Nation (SON) Environment Office shared information about steps that land owners can take to protect our lands and waters. As guitarist and folk singer Jacob Corston played, guests were able to enjoy savoury treats provided by renowned Indigenous chef Zach Keeshig.

Walking Together was organized during Indigenous History Month in preparation for the August 13 unveiling of the Ajiijak (Crane) mural. Walking Together also featured the launch of an online auction of 6 fine-art prints of Ajiijak. The auction will run on Instagram until 8 pm on Sunday July 10. For details, go to the June 25 post on @oxendenindigenousart.

Dozens of Oxenden neighbours and friends as well as Caframo, the Rotary Club of Wiarton and the Township of Georgian Bluffs have joined in this step toward reconciliation, donating funds to install a 10 foot high enlargement of the Ajiijak painting on the side of the old general store at the Oxenden crossroads.

Students from OSDSS and PSDS have collaborated on building a Reflection Bench that will encourage hikers, water walkers, cyclists and other passers-by to enjoy the beautiful and important messages in the painting.

Walking Together was one of several knowledge-sharing, community building events made possible by a grant from Community Foundation Grey Bruce.

For more information about the Oxenden Indigenous Art Project, go to .




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