Albert Mandamin

Albert Mandamin

Albert Mandamin of Shoal Lake provided guidance to me to invite specific Elders to attend this gathering which was honouring spring. I received a small amount of funding through primarily two organizations to support the travel and accommodations of these Elders. One of the Elders that I invited was Albert’s nephew Ron Indian-Mandamin who has also been instrumental in my journey[1]. The gathering lasted for five days starting on April 27 until May 1 in 2007 and we probably saw more than three hundred people come through the eastern doorway over that period. Some travelled from as far away as southern Ontario and Manitoba including Sam George, brother of Dudley George[2]. I was very honoured to have Sam there. We later became good friends. As we know now, there were recommendations that came out of the Ipperwash Inquiry as a result of this tragedy and Sam is known as a modern day warrior[3].   Sam passed at age 56, June 3, 2009 at home on the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point reserve near Sarnia, surrounded by family members.

Looking back on the very first teaching lodge that we conducted which was guided by Albert, I would have to say that I think that is the one that caused the most ruckus down below in the city of Thunder Bay. We had received some news coverage through our local paper so there were a few people aware that there was some activity on the mountain. The local Anishinabek learned of the activities through other Anishinabek because there isn’t anything much faster than the moccasin telegraph (which is now also conducted through Facebook). I suspect there were people asking “what the heck are those Indians doing up on the mountain anyway” due to the fact that our ceremonies brought with them 80 km winds that were cleansing the land and the people. I was expecting Nanibijou (known as the Sleeping Giant) to get up at any moment, walk across the bay to the mountain and knock some sense into us as due to how unfamiliar the majority of us were with our traditional ceremonies.

These powerful winds were threatening to take the lodge down and start fires. I can vividly recall rushing over to the teaching lodge while Albert lay next to the sweat lodge being interviewed by Rick Garrick working for a native newspaper. I was desperately trying to hold the lodge poles in place as a nearby pole was threatening to crush the big drum that Albert took care of. I can hear Albert laughing at me and calmly continuing what he was doing. I was frustrated that all the people that were sitting around the lodge were like in some kind of trance. They weren’t moving. Can’t they see the devastation that is about to happen? Why weren’t they helping? I remember yelling out to them to come and help.

It is very uncommon to find Elders allowing pictures to be taken around ceremony or of ceremony and to be providing an interview to a reporter. However Albert made that clear from the very beginning that this was Grey Wolf’s message. I recall Albert motioning with his hands as we looked over the entire city from our view on Mount McKay indicating that we need to make ourselves available for all the people, native and non-native alike. I lost the support of many volunteers following this gathering when they realized that we encouraged non-natives to participate. They just couldn’t get past that.

With the high winds, the Elder Ron explained to a few of us that we must prepare a feast of traditional foods. People had been donating food but were bringing things like Kentucky Fried Chicken, donuts and other ‘non-traditional’ food. He instructed us on what kinds of food to prepare such as traditional meats like moose, deer and fish and foods like wild rice, the three sisters (corn, squash and beans), berries and other foods that our people have been eating for thousands of years. I recall after receiving these instructions it was sort of like watching an army of ants, all receiving their marching orders, getting into their vehicles and all scurrying down the mountain to the prepare the food. My hope was that this would please the spiritual guides and settle the weather down. In addition to the feast of the traditional food, there was also some drumming and singing to spiritual guides that did in fact result in calmer weather.
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In addition to learning about how powerful the ceremonies are that I witnessed during this spring ceremony, I also learned of an important spiritual connection that I had with the Elder Ron as he was sharing a dream that he had had about Makwa (bear) along the ridge of Mount McKay. This ridge is kind of diagonal and runs between the plateau that we were on (and the annual pow wows are celebrated) and the very top of the mountain. When I heard him talking about his dream and the location of the bear in his dream, I remember gasping and not breathing while I listened to the rest of his story. You see, not only has Makwa been the starting point of this amazing journey for me (refer to the “Grey Wolf Comes Into My Life” blog which talks about the dream that I had about Makwa on December 29 2006) but also on June 22, 2003 is when I had received my first spirit name and my clan, at this very same location and people had seen the little rock people along this ridge.

So I followed this connection or intuition that I ‘had’ to speak to Ron. I waited until the ceremony was completed and as Ron was packing up his sacred items, I went and spoke to him about my bear vision. He asked me how many children that I had. I told him five. He was a little surprised. He told me that he had received a dream about a woman with five cubs who would be coming to him and how this woman would be a helper for him with his spiritual work. Once again I was flabbergasted. He informed me in the same matter-of-fact way that Albert talked that I needed to do a ‘bear ceremony’. We were about to find out how accurate the guidance was that we had both received.

[1] At the time, even though Ron was only in his late twenties, because of all the gifts that he carries he is referred to as an Elder. Being called an Elder does not necessarily have anything to do with your age.

[2] Dudley George had been shot by police at Ipperwash Provincial Park during a burial ground protest on September 6 1995.

[3] In 1997, a court found that Dudley George and the other Aboriginals were unarmed when they occupied Ipperwash Provincial Park after Labour Day 1996, saying they were protecting sacred burial grounds. The Province of Ontario has since agreed to return the former provincial park to native hands.