The lighting of a sacred fire Sunday morning signaled the final day of a weekend workshop on Victoria Island, where the Algonquin estimate they’ve been meeting for 5,000 years.

The gathering marked several occasions, including Aboriginal Awareness Week, International Day for Biodiversity and the 10th anniversary of Algonquin elder William Commanda’s Millennium Circle of All Nations Peace Gathering.

Commanda, former chief of the Kitigan Zibi reserve near Maniwaki, presided over the event. The weekend workshop, entitled Sustainable Relationships: Reconciliation and Integration, was steeped in aboriginal tradition, the sweat lodge ceremony, talking circle and potluck supper, but also focused on the future, particularly on peace and environment issues.

 

Among the guests were native activist Donald Marshall, Kirk Wipper — founder of the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough — and architect Douglas Cardinal, who has designed a building that would incorporate the remains of the Victoria Island Carbide Mill and house an indigenous peoples centre.

The centre is part of Commanda’s plans for the Asinabka Chaudiere Sacred Site — a cultural, spiritual and educational centre on the island and on neighbouring Chaudiere Island.

“We don’t always hear the native voice, and we need to in this country,” said workshop organizer Romola Thumbadoo, emphasizing that the sacred site would be a resource for everyone, not just First Nations people.