See you for T-Day in Coat­i­cook this Satur­day !

Na­tive drums and dance com­ing to T-Day

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Coat­i­cook

Long be­fore the town of Coat­i­cook was founded one hun­dred and fifty years ago, the area was pop­u­lated by Na­tive Americans be­long­ing to sev­eral First Na­tions. Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal Amerindian lore, some of those na­tions in­cluded Black­foot,

Algonquin, Nipiss­ing and, most promi­nently, the Abe­nakis. Ac­cord­ing to the So­ci­ete d’his­toire et pat­ri­moine de Coat­i­cook, the word Coat­i­cook is of Abe­naki ori­gin and means “River near the land of the pines”.

To­day, there are few ob­vi­ous traces left of the in­dige­nous peo­ple who first came to the Coat­i­cook area from the South to live, noth­ing like the re­cently cre­ated ‘Pi­o­neer Trail’ erected in their honor, and lit­tle is known about them by the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. But there is a ded­i­cated group of peo­ple, all of Amerindian an­ces­try them­selves and proud of it, who would like to change that: the As­so­ci­a­tion Amerin­di­enne-Au­tochtone-Metis-Weetchumpee.

In recog­ni­tion of the im­por­tant place of Amerindi­ans in the his­tory of the re­gion, mem­bers of the Weetchumpee As­so­ci­a­tion led the spe­cial pa­rade or­ga­nized for Coat­i­cook’s 150th cel­e­bra­tions, held in Au­gust, but their in­volve­ment in the year-long ‘Fete’ doesn’t end there. Dur­ing Town­ship­pers’ Day, this Satur­day, mem­bers of the Weetchumpee As­so­ci­a­tion will cre­ate an Amerindian vil­lage down at the Coat­i­cook Gorge, be­side the round barn, with plenty of tra­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties for young and old alike. I met with a few mem­bers of the As­so­ci­a­tion Amerin­di­enne-Au­tochtone-Metis Weetchumpee for an in­ter­view at their head­quar­ters in Water­ville, get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to do an in­ter­view in a teepee for the first time. Sit­ting on chairs grouped in a tight cir­cle ended up be­ing quite con­ducive to good con­ver­sa­tion!

“At Town­ship­pers’ Day we’ll have singing, story-telling, power drum cir­cles, ar­ti­san kiosks, cer­e­monies, ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren and food tast­ings,” said Josanne Charest, the pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion Amerin­di­enne-Au­tochtone-Metis-Weetchumpee. “We’ll be serv­ing food like ban­nock, cedar and honey ti­sane and, of course, corn. It was one of the plants that kept the peo­ple alive. For us, at this time of year, it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of the har­vest!” she added.

Ray­mond and Claude Robert, of Water­ville, will demon­strate how to make tra­di­tional Amerindian bas­kets from strips of ash. “Mr. Robert learnt how to make bas­kets a long time ago from Ti-Kiss Desin­des who was an im­por­tant mem­ber of our com­mu­nity. I heard that Louis St. Lau­rent signed a spe­cial pa­per so he could get a gov­ern­ment pen­sion. To­day, Ti-Kiss is buried in an un­marked grave, but I’d like to fix that,” said the pres­i­dent.

“We’ll be light­ing a Sa­cred Fire at 10:00 am to open the day,” added Jac­ques Belanger, Josanne’s hus­band who took part in the in­ter­view along with René Gagné. “The Amerindian Vil­lage will be a great place to re­lax on Town­ship­pers’ Day,” said René. Vis­i­tors can buy three coupons for one dol­lar for the food tast­ings; ad­mis­sion and all other ac­tiv­i­ties at the Amerindian Vil­lage are free. White, spe­cially marked shut­tle buses will take vis­i­tors from the down­town area of Coat­i­cook or from the Town­ship­pers’ Day park­ing area at La Frontal­iere high school straight to the Amerindian Vil­lage at the Coat­i­cook Gorge, and back again, through­out the day.

“Our role as an As­so­ci­a­tion is to show that there are still Amerindi­ans among us,” said Josanne. “And that we have been evolv­ing. Statis­tics show that about 60% of Que­be­cers have Amerindian blood,” said Jac­ques. “We’re still here and we have al­ways been part of so­ci­ety,” added René.

“We also want to keep the spir­i­tu­al­ity and the cul­ture of those who walked be­fore us, rec­og­nize that we are here be­cause they were once here,” said Jac­ques. “When we dress an­ces­trally, with a feather or a tra­di­tional neck­band, it’s our way of send­ing a mes­sage of love to our an­ces­tors: We won’t for­get you,” ex­plained René. About two hun­dred and fifty fam­i­lies be­long to the As­so­ci­a­tion

Amerin­di­enne-Au­tochtone-Metis-Weetchumpee. “Many peo­ple still don’t want to ad­mit that they have Na­tive blood in them,” con­tin­ued René. “But what’s nice about do­ing spe­cial ac­tiv­i­ties out in the com­mu­nity is that, after they take part in them, peo­ple of­ten want to ex­plore their roots,” said Jac­ques.

And, in case you’re won­der­ing what the word ‘Weetchumpee’ sig­ni­fies, it is an Abe­naki term that means: “As many as there are stars in the sky”. If you’d like more in­for­ma­tion about this or­ga­ni­za­tion or about their ac­tiv­i­ties on Town­ship­per’s Day, call Josanne Charest at 819 837-0088.

Photo cour­tesy

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Look­ing for­ward to shar­ing their Amerindian cul­ture with vis­i­tors at T-Day this Satur­day are (l. to r.) Jac­ques Belanger, René Gagné, Josanne Charest and young Julien Belanger, in front.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

The Weetchumpee As­so­ci­a­tion will set up an Amerindian Vil­lage at the Coat­i­cook

Gorge for T-Day on Satur­day.

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