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Blessing ceremony closes historical site, makes way for construction

Thursday November 24, 2011
Chris Kornacki/Wawatay News
James Mishquart, a council member from Rocky Bay First Nation led a blessing ceremony at the McKenzie 1 archaeological site Nov. 10.

The Anishinabek Nation’s Northern Superior Chiefs held a blessing ceremony at the McKenzie 1 archaeological site Nov. 10. 

The ceremony was open to the public and all Anishinabek First Nations community members who wanted to properly respect the land, traditions and historical findings on the site prior to its closure.

The site, which contains artifacts that are over 9,000 years old, will now make way for a twinning of the TransCanada Highway near McKenzie Bay just west of Thunder Bay.

“It’s a very historical site. We’ve been told some artifacts are over 9,000 years old and we’re interested in some of them being returned to our community,” said Peter Collins, chief of Fort William First Nation.

Construction for the twinning of the highway began in 2010, but once it was discovered that the construction would affect the historical site and its artifacts, construction was halted to make way for researchers and archaeologists to examine the site and remove the artifacts.

James Mishquart, a council member of Rocky Bay First Nation led the prayers and blessing.

“I’m trying to find the words to express what has taken place here, what is the definition of progress and what has happened here,” Mishquart said. “But we try to find the best in every situation and try to find answers to what is the best thing to do. So we’re trying to show respect and humbleness to the people that existed here at one time.”

Mishquart offered tobacco and food as part of the blessing ceremony. The use of tobacco and food is a gesture of offering thanks and prayers to people who have passed on, he explained. 

The people who gathered for the ceremony each took a pinch of tobacco and placed it around the construction site “to ensure that the people driving through here are safe once the construction is completed.”

“We offer our prayers and our thoughts to those people and to express our thanks to the researchers who worked here to retain as much of the artifacts as they could to retrieve our history… at least we have the decency to show our respect,” Mishquart said. 

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