Brunswick House honoured at ROM

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Brunswick House First Nation celebrated the inclusion of a collection of birch bark containers and model canoes at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto March 13. The 16 containers and two canoes were hand made in the 1940s and 1950s by Joseph and Clara Candassie, Ojibway members of the community, located near Chapleau, Ontario.

The birch bark items are designated as having “outstanding significance and of national importance” by the government of Canada. Susan Harvie, of Ravenna, Ontario, donated them to the museum.

“I am so happy and excited that more than a hundred people from our First Nation are here today to honour the memory of our ancestors and their way of life,” said Brunswick House Chief Lisa Vanbuskirk.

Harvie said she made the donation because it was the best way to preserve and protect the artifacts.

“These pieces represent part of the history of Brunswick House First Nation. Most important is that Brunswick House stays part of the story. If these items just went from my mother to me and then to the ROM, then they would be just baskets. However, with the stories of Brunswick House they become very special,” explained Harvie.

“This all started when Susan approached the community a couple of years ago,” said Brunswick House Band Manager Lorraine Tangie. “And thanks to the work of so many of our leadership, Elders and community members, we are here today with our children and grandchildren to see these historic artifacts at the Royal Ontario Museum. I almost cried this morning as I was filled with so much emotion and happiness to see our people honoured.”

ROM Curator Emeritus Trudy Nicks helped present the Candassie collection.

“Susan Harvie brought the collection to us with the support of the First Nation,” said Nicks. “All of the pieces had to go through a lengthy process and it emerged that they were of historic significance to northern Ontario and Brunswick House First Nation. The long-term goal of acquiring this collection is to show these items and tell the stories associated with them.”

Dozens of Brunswick House FN children donned gloves to handle the birch bark containers.

“It’s great to be here today because this is special for our community. I am here with everyone to see what our ancestors did a long time ago,” said 15-year-old Jacy Jolivet.

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