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Elders and youth go strawberry picking near Thunder Bay

Friday August 8, 2014
Rick Garrick/Wawatay News

Elders get set to go strawberry picking as part of an intergenerational program at the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre on July 15.

Strawberry picking was the focus of a July 15 intergenerational program at the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre.

“It’s fun — we like going,” said Lori Nebenionquit, a Whitefish Lake citizen who now lives in Thunder Bay. “My son is very outgoing so we like to go picking up and down the aisles and picking all of our berries.”

Nebenionquit usually makes treats out of the berries she and her son Alexander pick during the annual excursion out to Belluz Farm in the Thunder Bay area. The TBIFC has been holding strawberry and blueberry picking trips since 1999.

“The whole six years since he was born we’ve been coming (to the TBICF) since he was about six months old,” Nebenionquit said. “He used to come to a reading group where I would read to him with all of the other children here.”

The strawberry outing usually attracts about 40 participants, including a number of Elders.

“Every year we go picking,” said Nora Primeau, an Elder originally from Shoal Lake. “I could do more, but we’re allowed two baskets.”

Primeau said her family always went picking berries for about one-and-a-half months each summer near Reddit.

“My dad used to (sell) berries to the store keeper,” Primeau said. “Us (kids), we just picked our own and made money. We helped him out. We used to pick lots — 20 baskets a day.”

Primeau’s family would travel by pickup truck to Reddit for the picking season.

“We loaded up all the canoes and camping outfit,” Primeau said. “We enjoyed it because our parents were quite ambitious to be in the bush.”

Primeau said her family did not have any problems with bears back then.

“We would just go, we didn’t go looking for anything,” Primeau said. “My mom used to pick berries with the bear on the other side of the bush.”

Primeau usually like to pick berries on her own in the bush nowadays.

“I just go and sit somewhere,” Primeau said. “If a bear is going to jump on me, well there I am. You can smell them in the bush, and then you go.”

The TBIFC usually harvests a variety of traditional materials from the land each year, including willow, strawberries, blueberries, sage and sweetgrass, to use in intergenerational programs.

“We have to incorporate the young with the old and share that knowledge between them both,” said Martin White, TBIFC’s Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin worker. “A lot of our young people don’t have grandparents that are mobile or perhaps they might have passed on. So we have surrogate grandparents — that is why we use our Elder group.”

White said the youth will one day pass on the knowledge they learned from the Elders at TBIFC to future generations.

“We’re always teaching these young people to be good grandparents one day,” White said.

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