By Erin Collins
Visitors trying to locate Lakehead’s annual Fall Harvest just had to follow their nose.
Held September 8 on the campus’ Sweat Lodge Site near the athletics centre, theevent was overshadowed by asweet-smelling smoke gently wafting under a grey September sky intermixed with delicious scents of smoked fish, fresh corn, fire-roasted goose, and baking bannock.
The atmosphere was peaceful as visitors meandered from one station to the next, which were arranged in a semi-circle. Moccasinmaking and wood carving were a couple of the activities passersby could partake in.
Student Jordan Williams shared his thoughts about the event while casually stomping in a pit of wild rice, atradition, he claimed, to be reserved only for males. “This is my third Fall Harvest,” he said.“It’s a great event, it brings out the students as well as the community.”
Also among the participants was fourth-year Tim Michano, who enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people and try traditional foods. “Learning is lifelong. . . . I always enjoy finding out what everyone here is busy making and doing.”
This year’s Fall Harvest was also well-attended by students new to Lakehead.
Chief organizer Bryanna Scottand co-organizer Sheila Demerah-Pelletier applaudedthe efforts of the large and dedicated group of volunteers who spent their Saturday helping out.
They also expressed gratitude for the directionthat elders provided. “Our elders are very rooted in the teachings they have learned and willing to pass these on,” explained Scott. She was particularly thankful for the involvement of elders with the Seven Grandfathers’ Teachings, some of whom travelled from Fort Frances and southern Ontario to educateLakehead students.
Elder in Residence Gerry Martin played an active role inthe Fall Harvest’s organization and implementation.He led attendees on a Medicine Walk during which he shared his extensive knowledge of local herbs and plants.Winter mint, sweet grass, strawberries, chives, sage, and tobacco were all on route. Martin had an overarching message for the students throughout the journey: “Take only what you need and leave the rest for others. . . . We don’t own this stuff, we’re just the keepers of it.”
As part of Lakehead’s 2012 Orientation, the Fall Harvest played a particularly important role for new Aboriginal students. “It’s like a home away from home for those who come from northern communities,” explained Scott. “These students are used to cooking and living off the land, being surrounded by nature. They can find that here,” she said while gesturing around the Sweat Lodge Site.
She addedthat the land offers a safe, green, and healthy place to visit. “We live in the 21st century when there’s a strong push to develop bigger houses and institutions, but we also need to remember the importance of having green spaces.”
“People were not meant to congregate in a concrete jungle,” agreed Martin. “That can makeyou sick, not only physically but also emotionally.”