Fridays by the Fire

Wood burning fireplace at the Old Stone House

Last week I was an invited speaker to the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site’s Fridays by the Fire series.  This series runs January to April on Fridays and invites local folks to have lunch in the ‘summer kitchen’ room of the Ermatinger Old Stone House while listening to a speaker.  The name of the series comes from the fact that the centerpiece of the room is a fireplace (pictured above). The series’ speakers cover a range of community perspectives and focus on various historical topics.

My talk was focused on the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) and the legacy of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.  This talk was a variation on some of the introduction discussions I provide when offering site tours of the historic Shingwauk site.  The emphasis was really on explaining the long history of residential schools locally, the changing landscape of the Shingwauk site, and on-going impacts of residential schools.  I also touched on some of the cross-cultural work that is being undertaken by Algoma University and its partners. To close off the talk I discussed the power of community archives in shifting narratives and the history of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association.

For me these community based outreach opportunities are extremely important.  It is a form of outreach that is all about meeting people where they are.  For example, a number of the participants were regulars at the Old Stone House but had never visited the SRSC and weren’t aware of the public programming we offered.  This talk also allowed me to field some of the myths around local history and to promote ongoing initiatives of the SRSC.  As an added bonus, the talk was recorded by our local Shaw TV station and will have extended reach through that programming.

I am grateful for Ermatinger Clergue staff member Will Holingshead and his willingness to collaborate between our organizations.  I really do love the ability of cultural heritage organizations to help and uplift each other, I think that collaboration is so important.