BY: BUSAYO OSOBADE, DECEMBER, 2018
It all started with a lake.
A new partnership formed between the Resort Village of Manitou Beach and the Touchwood Tribal Council is looking at ways to bring back the healing powers of the Little Manitou Lake.
The Little Manitou Lake is a small salt-water lake located in central Saskatchewan. To the First Nations people in that region, it is the lake of healing waters.
In 2017, the Resort Village of Manitou Beach partnered with the Touchwood Agency Tribal Council (TATC) on a community project called Manitou Sakahīcan. The project, which received funding from SaskCulture’s Community Cultural Engagement and Planning, was created with the hopes of establishing a relationship between the First Nations people and the residents of the Resort Village of Manitou Beach. Now, this partnership is building lasting connections, creating new opportunities for both communities and looking at ways to bring back the healing potency of the lake.
TATC is an organization formed by four First Nations communities which includes Day star, George Gordon, Kawacatoose and Muskowekwan.
Bill Strongarm, committee member and residential school support worker with TATC, explains that Manitou, in Cree means “Great Spirits or the Creator” while Sakahīcan means “lake.” He says the lake was called Manitou Sakahīcan because it was a place where First Nations people gathered to heal people affected with various skin diseases and other sicknesses.
“We are concerned about it right now because it doesn't have the healing powers like it had before settlement probably because of a lot of environmental factors and that's why the partnership with the Resort Village of Manitou Beach started so that we can work together to find a way to bring back the lake, maybe not to what it was but at least, it will be better.”~ Bill Strongarm“We are concerned about it right now because it doesn't have the healing powers like it had before settlement probably because of a lot of environmental factors. That's why the partnership with the Resort Village of Manitou Beach started so that we can work together to find a way to bring back the lake, maybe not to what it was but at least, it will be better,” he says, adding that bringing the lake back to its healing powers will benefit the First Nations people and the residents of the Resort Village of Manitou Beach.
Sarah McKen, chairperson of the committee, agrees that Manitou Sakahīcan is “not just (about) creating events that acknowledge the history, but to actually involve the First Nations people with the Resort Village of Manitou Beach, because the lake has always been important to the First Nations people.”
She says it was important to build this relationship with the First Nations people and the funding from SaskCulture has made it possible for both communities to get together to make plans.
“We really appreciate what SaskCulture does through programs like this because there was nothing else that would support us at these initial stages,” she says. “We couldn’t start working until we had a relationship with TATC so that process was essential to all our future hopes.”
Last year, both communities gathered together for a pipe ceremony. McKen says this ceremony helped both communities acknowledge their commitments to the lake.
“Part of what has been accomplished both is that it is very important that we've made personal connections connection between all the different people that are connected to this lake,” she says. “We know that if we have open communication and we are friends, then it is easier to work together to protect what is so special about this lake.”
The year 2019 is the centennial of the incorporation of the Village of Manitou Beach and plans are in the works to include First Nations people and culture in the centennial celebrations.