This item is copied from a post published on June 21, 2022 on nsforestnotes.ca
Today, June 21, 2022, we in the northern hemisphere celebrate the summer solstice, as our ancestors have done since prehistoric times.
It is also Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day:
In cooperation with Indigenous organizations, the Government of Canada chose June 21, the summer solstice, for National Aboriginal Day, now known as National Indigenous Peoples Day. For generations, many Indigenous peoples and communities have celebrated their culture and heritage on or near this day due to the significance of the summer solstice as the longest day of the year.
Just over the past year and a bit, the day has gained a deeper meaning for Canadians of settler lineage as we began to seriously reflect on a dark truth about the country most of us have viewed as so embracing of peoples of all races and cultures: our collective role historically and ongoing in the debasement, indeed attempted genocide, of our indigenous peoples.
At least from my vantage point, there has been a massive shift in our (settler) relationship with our indigenous peoples since then. While we have a long way yet to go, we are far more humble in our views of Canada as a multicultural nation and much more wanting to work for true reconciliation with our ingenious peoples.
And we have gained immeasurably by opening our eyes to the true gift of the care of our land by indigenous peoples past and present, and have begun to seek their guidance and collaboration as we try to heal the damage we have inflicted on these lands beginning in 1604.
One change I made on this blog/website and in my own mind this past year was to view and appreciate our forest as the Wabanaki forest, rather than the Acadian forest. In doing so I was following the lead, amongst settler peoples, of Community city Forests International.
I was aware of the almost perfect overlap between the boundaries of the Acadian Forest and the lands occupied by peoples of the Wabanaki Confederacy from a talk Shalan Joudry gave at the MTRI Old Forest Conference in the fall of 2016.
Shalan described the excitement she felt when she first saw a map of the Acadian Forest in Jamie Simpson’s Restoring the Acadian Forest (1st ed. 2008, 2nd Ed. 2015) and realized that the distribution of the Acadian forest corresponds closely to Wabanaki Territory (see e.g. map at Abbe Museum), the lands occupied by peoples of the Wabanaki Confederacy. Wabanaki means “People of the Dawn” and as I understand it, Wapane’kati, “Land of the Dawn”. Mi’kmaq people understood Wapane’kati as the place where people first welcome the sun on behalf of rest of the peoples of Turtle Island (North America).
What a wonderful view of this part of the world. Now I will think of it when I witness the sunrise. How better could the connection between peoples and the land be illustrated than by the occurrence a particular group of people on landscapes of a particular forest type? – from Connecting to Wapane’kati. Post on NSFN oct 23, 2016
Later in the fall of 2016, Shalan’s Master of Environmental Studies thesis, PUKTEWEI: LEARNING FROM FIRE IN MI’KMA’KI (MI’KMAQ TERRITORY) was posted on Dalspace (Dalhousie’s Digital Archives). In the thesis, Shalan takes the reader with her on her journey to explore the interaction between indigenous and scientific ways of learning about our world It’s rewarding and a pleasure to read and I have gone back to it many times.
The map at right is taken from the thesis; I wanted to use it in a presentation I made to Nature Nova Scotia’s 2022 Celebration of Nature and I wrote Shalan to ask if that would be OK. Her reply provided some further context to the name ‘Wabanaki Forest’:
Yes, of course you’re welcome to share the image and mention it…
I did say in my thesis that I assumed the right Smith-Francis orthography would be Wapane’kati, but a fluent speaker thought that maybe ‘e’kati might be for more specific (smaller area) location names. And maybe ‘akadie or ‘aki are for larger regions (like Wabanaki). Also, some people put a vowel inbetween “pn” in the secnd syllable and people don’t put a vowel there. There are a few more variant pronunciations and spellings,.. as our languages are still orally-based so that diversity is there. I hope that comes up whenever someone asks about variations, such as:
They are all the same… “place-of-dawn” in some variation.
Sometime after Shalan’s presentation in 2016, I saw a book of her poetry in Bookmark in Halifax (a treasure of a bookstore): Generations Re-Merging (Gaspereau Press, 2014). It also is rewarding and a pleasure to read and re-read, starting with the Prologue:
Each generation must make their own journey through a thick terrain.
How ever we get lost along the way, let us rejoice in the healing steps that follow.
I hope we all continue to gather at the edge of the woods where the generations before us and after us re-merge.
Surely those are words that speak to all of us.
On the day of the summer solstice in 2017, I was exploring some residual riparian forest in an area by Sandy Lake (Bedford) that had been clearcut in 2013 and encountered a yellow birch and a hemlock that seemed to be growing from the same base, their trunks ascending to the skies in tandem. I immediately thought of it as an “Acadian Forest Love Affair” (now of course I would call it a Wabanaki Forest Love Affair).
Subsequently, with my eyes wide open to this forest affair, I viewed many more such unions and searched for any related information in the scientific literature. Eventually, I came up with an ecological explanation for this often intimate association of Yellow Birch and Eastern hemlock in our Wabanaki forest.
In the process, I also discovered that Mi’kmaq artisan and elder Todd Labrador had talked about how his father used to tell him “the trees hold hands beneath the forest floor”:
Labrador’s father used to tell him the trees hold hands beneath the forest floor.
“They’re supporting each other. Their hands and their roots are intertwined. He said nature is sending us the message that we as human beings need to do the same, regardless of colour of skin, regardless of religion, race,” Labrador says.
“If we come together and hold hands and support each other, we’ll be much stronger. He said that’s the message that Mother Nature is constantly telling us, but only some of us will hear that message, a lot of us won’t. – Todd Labrador
– From Finding their root (CBC Interactive by Elizabeth McMillan, Oct 2017)
Enjoy the Solstice.
I hope you will also enjoy many days in our
truly wonderful Wabanki forest.
– David P
There are some magnificent expanses of Wabanaki forest in the area of Sandy Lake (Bedford):
View Drone Video (Oct 9, 2017)