'I know our people are strong': Indigenous elders honoured for work to protect, preserve culture
Keeping the Fires Burning event honours Indigenous grandmothers, grandfathers each year
Nine Indigenous grandmothers and grandfathers were honoured in Winnipeg Thursday, as part of an annual event celebrating the contributions of elders.
"They're the holders of our history, our values, our laws. They're just so integral to our community," said Renata Meconse at the Keeping the Fires Burning event at Winnipeg's Victoria Inn Hotel.
Meconse's father, the late veteran Joseph Meconse, was one of the elders recognized Thursday, and one of two who were honoured posthumously.
Joseph Meconse, an Order of Manitoba recipient and Canadian Forces veteran from the Sayisi Dene First Nation, died at 77 in February.
"I know my dad would be very proud," she said. "This is just such a beautiful way to embrace and remember his memory."
Other elders honoured include the late Doris Pratt, an elder from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, Man., who died in March at 83, and Harry Bone, and elder from Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation in Manitoba.
Pratt devoted more than 50 years of her life to preserve the Dakota language and local dialects. Bone received the Order of Canada in 2018 for his contributions to advancing Indigenous education, preserving traditional laws and building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures.
"This is a way to build relationships with the Indigenous community, to honour our grandmothers, grandfathers, knowledge keepers," Meconse said. "It's also really valuable that youth are here too this evening. So it's good for them to see that, you know, we respect our elders. We learn from our elders."
The Keeping the Fires Burning event is hosted annually by Winnipeg-based Ka Ni Kanichihk and the sakihiwewin Foundation.
Leslie Spillett, founder and former executive director of Ka Ni Kanichihk, said Indigenous peoples in Canada have stayed steadfast despite generations of atrocities against them.
"I know our people are strong," she said. "And I know our ancestors were strong, because we can stand here today and celebrate us."
The nine elders welcomed into the Circle of Honour:
- Joseph Meconse (1941-2019)
- Chickadee Richard
- Harry Bone
- Doris Pratt (1936-2019)
- Carl Stone
- Madeline Mousseau
- Marie Ballantyne
- Eldon Campbell
- Gayle Pruden