| Jun 29, 2006


Feature Article - June 29, 2006

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Feature Article - June 29, 2006

SummerSolstice inSharbotLake

by JeffGreen

LettersCeltic Storyteller "Bear theTinker" leads theSharbotLakeSolstice Parade It takes bravery to bring together 350 public school students one week before the end of school and try and get them to focus on anything, let alone a host of topics, ranging from bike safety to Algonquin stories to the alignment of the planets in the solar system.

But this successfully happened on June 21st at Sharbot Lake Public Beach , when students from Hinchinbrooke, Land o’ Lakes, and Sharbot Lake Public Schools were happy to oblige. Among other things, they listened in rapt attention to storytellers Danka Brewer from the Sharbot Mishigama Algonquins, and Pam Harris from the Kingston Frontenac Public Library; took turns looking at the sun through Leo Enright’s solar telescope; created planetary tiles with potter Joanne Pickett; and powered a light by cycling at a display set up by Martin Wotherspoon, a student in the St. Lawrence College Alternative Technology program.

Cheryl Matson organized the Solstice Celebration at the Sharbot Lake public beach, which got underway early in the morning on June 21st, and kept going until the sun had set on the longest day of the year.

“I wanted to organize something that would bring the different parts of the community together,” Matson said in contemplating how the event unfolded, “and I found the day went very well for everyone.”

Matson and the Highway 7 Community Development Corporation produced the event, with assistance from the Community Foundation of Greater Kingston, who chipped in with a $2,000 grant.

Among the main participants in the Solstice Celebration were the Sharbot Mishigama Anishnabe Algonquin First Nation (SMA), who integrated it with their celebration of National Aboriginal Day.

“We wanted to share our celebration with others this year,” recalls Davis , “and this turned out to be an excellent way of doing that. It was a wonderful day, I was so impressed. I hope it happens again.”

The SMA set up displays throughout the park, and later in the afternoon they demonstrated the “Strawberry Teaching” to a crowd that assembled for after school and evening festivities.

As women formed a circle around a bowl of berries, and men formed another, wider circle around the women, Chief Davis told the story of the strawberry ceremony and took the opportunity to explain the significance of the ceremony for those in attendance. During a briefer version of the actual ceremony (the full ceremony takes about 90 minutes), Chief Davis explained that the strawberry ceremony symbolizes the responsibility of the community towards children, particularly girls. The white flower of the strawberry represents children, and the red berry, adolescence. Women carry the responsibility of teaching the children and the men the responsibility of protecting the community.

Doreen Davis was happy to have the opportunity to share the message of the strawberry ceremony in the context of the Algonquin Land Claim process that she is involved with as a representative from Sharbot Lake .

“We need to put the infrastructure in place to take care of our community, which is suffering from poverty, alcohol abuse, and other problems. We need a safe place for our community to heal, and for us the land claim is about putting institutions in place for that to happen.”

The strawberry ceremony also paved the way for a massive strawberry social, where heaping helpings of strawberry shortcake were served, free, to everyone in attendance, courtesy of Crooked Hills Farm, Robinson’s Dairy and a host of local bakers.

At 7:00, a freeform parade developed, meandering its way around the beach, as a tinker/storyteller by the name of Bear arrived to regale young and old with Celtic stories and songs. Musicians played, the women’s drum drummed, and an impromptu all-ages soccer game developed in one corner of the park as the long summer day began to wane and twilight approached.

“It was a very nice day,” Cheryl Matson recalls, “There was magic in the way the day developed.”

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