Published: August 9, 2017
BY BECCA LETKEMAN
The sun shone brightly on Friday as upwards of 50 people gathered to commemorate the Bloodvein River at Centennial Park, an event co-sponsored by Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, Lac Seul First Nation, and the Red Lake Regional Heritage Center.
The celebration was designed to acknowledge the community’s connection to the river, including speeches, lunch, a time for storytelling, a children’s portaging game, and a display showcasing aerial photography of the river system.
The Bloodvein is one of 42 Canadian Heritage Rivers, 39 of which have been celebrated in a similar fashion this summer as part of Canada 150 events across the country.
“The River was a lifeline for our people a long time ago and the water that flows through also provides life for all of us. It’s something we must cherish and look after,” prefaced Victor Lyon of Lac Seul First Nation before opening the gathering with a song titled Searching for Life.
Prior to the event, a group composed of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park staff, Archeologist Jill Taylor-Hollings, and members of Lac Seul and Pikangikum First Nations embarked on a trip visit pictograph sites along the Bloodvein. This trip was one of many joint visits undertaken along the river since the early 2000’s. Chief Clifford Bull from Lac Seul reflected on the Murdock lake pictograph area, “It was amazing, the pictographs in particular… we should protect and preserve this rich history.”
Highlighted among all stories and speeches was the thread of connection and relationships. “Rivers connect people,” said Lori Skitt, Superintendent for Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. “The Bloodvein project has always been about building and maintaining positive relationships,” added Doug Gilmour, former Superintendent for the park.
In light of Canada’s 150th birthday, acknowledging a body of water that has been traversed for 9000 years by Indigenous people drew focus to the importance, richness, and longevity of the local Indigenous community. “The mining community that we are a part of has only been around for 91 years. Our fir trade industry goes back just over 200 years. But in civilization the Indigenous relationship with Red Lake goes back 9000 years; that’s 100 more times than we’ve been mining” observed Red Lake mayor, Phil Vinet.
The Bloodvein River will continue to be celebrated as part of the Heritage Center’s current exhibition Woodland Caribou Provincial Park until October.
(seen above) from left- Lori Skitt, Jean Keesick, Peter Paishk, Jennie Kejick, Josephine King, Doug Gilmore, Joe Paishk, Clifford Bull pose before cutting the cake at the commemoration of the Bloodvein River on Aug. 4