On a picturesque fall day in late September 2023, the Friends of Bonnechere Parks (FBP) hosted a special ceremony to celebrate the Birthing of the Medicine Wheel at Bonnechere Provincial Park. Located near the trailhead of the new Nòpiming FIT Trail, this new sacred space has been designed based on Medicine Wheel teachings representing the wholeness of the traditional lifestyle of the Algonquin People.
Invited participants included FBP Board members and volunteers, Ontario Parks staff, and representatives from local and regional tourism, culture and economic development sectors.
However, the two most important guests were Elder Patrick Aird and Knowledge Keeper and Helper Sherry Dion. During the deeply meaningful two-hour ceremony, Elder Patrick and Sherry shared Algonquin teachings and stories, providing participants with a better understanding of the traditional Medicine Wheel and the sacred space it represents.
The ceremony opened with the FBP Land Acknowledgement, which was written under the guidance of Elder Aimee Bailey:
The FBP recognizes that Bonnechere Provincial Park is privileged to be on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation. We endeavour to honour the history, heritage and culture of the original Indigenous caretakers of this land.
Sherry Dion smudged each guest with the smoke of plant medicines including tobacco, sage, sweetgrass and cedar. She then shared an opening prayer and performed the Welcome Song accompanied by her drum.
Park Superintendent Jason Mask presented Elder Patrick with a tobacco offering, and FBP Volunteer Betty Biesenthal shared the same with Knowledge Keeper and Helper Sherry. A tobacco offering was also laid at the photo of Elder Dorothy Commanda who originally shared the Footprints In Time (FIT) teaching with the FBP in 1997. Since that time, the FBP has integrated the FIT teaching into many of its interpretive tools and outreach programs.
Holding an Eagle’s feather, Elder Patrick then shared his thoughts and sentiments, and invited everyone to introduce themselves to the circle of all relations. Many heartfelt comments, memories and emotions were shared by the participants who had gathered in a Sharing Circle.
Local archaeologist and historian Ken Swayze shared the story of the Grandfather Stone that is set at the center of this Medicine Wheel.
After planting the Honour Medicine of Tobacco, Elder Patrick shared a short teaching on the directions, colours, values and themes tied to the four quadrants of the Medicine Wheel. He then led participants in identifying one’s personal direction within the Medicine Wheel.
Knowledge Keeper Sherry, FBP President Jane Duff and Project Lead Betty Biesenthal then read the content from the Medicine Wheel interpretive panel in three languages: English, Anishinabemowin and French.
Elder Patrick shared a closing prayer, followed by Sherry drumming and singing the Travelling Song.
Everyone gathered on the beach for a delicious BBQ lunch and social time hosted by the Park staff.
The newly built Nòpiming and Nàdòbìkana FIT trail have been developed at Bonnechere Provincial Park thanks to funding from the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).
The Nòpiming FIT Trail is located near the Park entrance, while the Nàdòbìkana FIT Trail is located at the waterfront. Both trails are designed to be accessible for those living with low vision and mobility issues. An accessible vault washroom is located at the Nàdòbìkana trailhead. Wheelchairs welcome!
Photo: Algonquin Elder Patrick Aird and Knowledge Keeper Sherry Dion led the Birthing of the Medicine Wheel ceremony at Bonnechere Provincial Park. Credit: Ontario Parks.