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Rama elder keeping fish fence story alive on World Storytelling Day

Presentation by Mark Douglas will be shared as part of free Storytelling Orillia event March 20
Mark Douglas, an elder from Chippewas of Rama First Nation, will share the story of the Mnjikaning Fish Weirs on March 20.

The story of the historic Mnjikaning Fish Weirs will be told during Storytelling Orillia’s next presentation.

Mark Douglas, an elder from Chippewas of Rama First Nation, will share his knowledge of the National Historic Site located at the Atherley Narrows. His presentation will be pre-recorded in Rama and shared virtually March 20 — which is World Storytelling Day — from 7 to 9 p.m.

The recording will show Douglas sharing the story in person with a small audience of Indigenous youth.

Joining him will be storyteller, teacher and musician Fay MacKenzie, who will share traditional Anishinaabeg tales and music.

Douglas, a member of Storytelling Orillia, has a wealth of knowledge about the site, and he has received accolades for his efforts to keep stories alive. He received Lakehead University’s Civitas Award for “bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities together through storytelling,” Storytelling Orillia explained in a news release.

Douglas is also a founding member of the Mnjikaning Fish Fence Circle, created in 1993.

“People are interested in learning more about Indigenous culture and traditions,” said Storytelling Orillia member Sharon Langfield, who noted the upcoming presentation will be “a good opportunity for people to hear an elder tell a story from those perspectives.”

The fish fence is about 5,000 years old.

“It’s one of the oldest archeological sites in Canada, yet many people don’t know the story of it,” Langfield said.

Located at the confluence of lakes Couchiching and Simcoe, much of it was destroyed by settlers who dredged it in the 1800s.

“The fish fence was used for 5,000 years to harvest fish after the long winter and the area became a great meeting place where communities feasted, stories were shared, ceremonies held, and goods were traded,” Langfield explained.

Douglas’s story will be recorded by professional photographer and director Keesic Douglas, who is from Rama. He will also create a video of the presentation and it will be shared with Rama’s culture and research department. It will also be made available to the Orillia Museum of Art and History, the Orillia and District Arts Council and the Gojijing Truth and Reconciliation Roundtable.

The March 20 presentation is called Giiwniikewag miinwaa Giimkaajigaazowag: Lost, Forgotten and Found.

Registration is free or by donation to Storytelling Orillia. To register, click here.