A gathering space to foster sharing and learning, and to advance truth and reconciliation
The Awen’ Gathering Place is a luminous sculptural pavilion overlooking Collingwood’s waterfront, dedicated to teaching, contemplation, and celebration.
The concept, based on the teachings of Dr. Duke Redbird of Saugeen First Nation, is a representation of the layers of the food forest, with each layer linked to one of the Seven Ancestor Teachings. Tilting Alaskan Cedar poles seven metres tall support seven laser cut steel canopies, each of which is cut with a pattern representing plants from a layer of the food forest. Seating platforms below are engraved with the Ancestor Teachings in Ojibwe. The gathering place is lit at night, creating a warm and inviting space visible to the town and the lake.
The Seven Ancestor Teachings are an ancient Anishinaabe/Midewiwin teaching on the ethics of proper behaviour and conduct or “the good way of life”. These teachings – including the virtues of love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility, and truth – are often associated with the land-based teachings of the food forest. These lands were for thousands of years the source of life for the Anishinaabeg peoples who gathered foods, medicines, and materials from the forest in the area that is now Collingwood.
An Indigenous gathering place was called for in Collingwood’s Waterfront Master Plan, also completed by Brook McIlroy. Throughout the consultation process, members of the Collingwood community expressed desire for recognition of the long-standing Indigenous presence on the land. The project caught the imagination of the United Steelworkers Union, and a gift from them accelerated the project timeline. Union members donated volunteer time during their district convention to install the landscaping.