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Reclaiming history, ritual, and ceremonies through story quilts and food

Curiosity about how the War of 1812 affected this area is opening up a world of drama, conflict, and struggle for survival.   Tales of refugees, traitors, heros, victims and betrayal are emerging from the archives.  

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Quilts are the medium for learning and sharing.  Women of  Chippewas of the Thames, Moravian of the Thames , Munsee-Delaware, and Oneida are exploring themes for a War of 1812 quilt.  Each block tells a story.

Fifty people recently attended a story telling session in Muncey at the Antler River complex on November 8th to share stories and old traditions. Maxine Hendrick chuckled about how she was initially puzzled by the idea of a quilt telling a story.  Then she realized that she owned one. She showed the crowd a beautiful story quilt that was lovingly stitched as a 40th wedding anniversary gift from her daughter.

Leslee Whiteye told about the importance of the ancient spirit name typically given to young children by an elder. Many receive them later in life too.  This name helps people know who they are, know where they belong, where they are going and where they came from.

Shirley Baker, an accomplished artisan, and Lenape descendant, spoke about the Baby Scoop Era which came after the residential school period.  Unfamiliar with extended family child-rearing practices and communal values, government social service workers attempted to ‘rescue’ children from their Aboriginal families and communities and placed them for adoption in white homes.  Many were exported to the U.S.

Penny French, whose father is a Veteran and mother was a truant officer, described the process of reclaiming lost ceremonies and rituals that were banned during the residential school period.  “Young people want to know and learn.”

The stories were heart felt, honest,  the energy was positive,  and the food was a pleasure. Traditional corn soup, squash soup, fried bread, blueberry biscuits, and venison were savoured.  Drumming, singing, and inspiration flowed through the evening.

George E. Henry spoke about the ambitious redevelopment of Tecumseh’s monument and the effort to establish a fitting memorial worthy of Tecumseh.  After his death, Tecumseh became an instant legend.  John Sugden, a historian, is working with the descendants of Tecumseh, to write the definitive history.

If not for the  support by the First Nations, Upper Canada might have fallen into American hands.  During negotiations for the TREATY OF GHENT, the British tried to bargain for the establishment of an Indian Territory but the Americans resolutely refused to agree. The most that they would accept was the status quo before the war. The Canadian Encyclopedia explains that that this was a profound disappointment and loss for the First Nations, since, despite all their efforts, they were unable to recover lost territory. Three years after the death of Tecumseh, Indiana became a state and began to remove all First Nations from their traditional lands.  In Canada, the War of 1812 was the end of an era in which the First Nations had been able to keep their positions in return for service in war. Soon, with the growth of Upper Canada, the First Nations were outnumbered in their own lands.

Barn quilts provide a medium for interpreting local history and culture.  Wardsville has done a trail.  Ailsa Craig and South Caradoc are in the planning phase.  An “arts corridor” on Longwoods Road Barn Quilt Trail is planned between Thamesville and Delaware.  For more information call Freda Henry (519) 264-2989 or Mary Simpson (519) 287-3566.

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