Full Circle: An Orkney family reunited after 200 years separated by distance and culture ( Final Part)

By Kim Twatt

Sturgeon Lake Pow Wow 2005

Chief Henry Daniels and council of Sturgeon Lake First Nation had considered the 2004 trip as the first stage in a two year plan. The visitors from Sturgeon Lake had brought with them an invitation to the people of Orkney, or their representatives, to attend their annual Pow Wow in 2005.

Sturgeon Lake Pow Wow

Nine people made the journey, including Johnnie Meil, “elder” of the Twatt family and his wife, Isabel, Leslie Manson Orkney’s Director of Education, Marita Luck, myself along with Robert and our son, Alistair, and Councillor Michael Drever along with his wife, Inga, who represented both the Drever family and Orkney Islands Council. All agree it was an amazing experience. We had not been given any guidelines. Our hosts wanted us to learn by experience which, once more for me, became steep learning curve, but memorable and great.

The visit to Orkney had caused quite a media stir and, similarly, TV and radio reporters popped up for our return visit. There came a request for me to go live on CBC. Horrors! 2005 being Saskatchewan’s centennial year, the interview would surely centre on this. How was I to go live on radio and enthuse that it was great to be in Saskatchewan to celebrate one hundred wonderful years for my First Nations friends and relations? I feel that by, very fortunately, being invited to attend a sweat the first evening at the reserve helped me sort it all out in my mind. Anniversaries and birthdays cause us to reflect upon things we have done well, as well as those things we have got so badly wrong. I believed that 2005 was a good time for us to be together to celebrate by looking to the future. I slept soundly that night after all.

The Orcadian group were invited to join the Grand Opening of Sturgeon Lake’s 2005 Pow Wow by marching into the arbour with Chief Henry Daniels and council, the Pow Wow Committee, the elders, war veterans and the dancers. We were welcomed with speeches and gifts. Sturgeon Lake First Nation had invited the Hudson’s Bay Company to be represented at the Pow Wow. It was that company who, after all, were responsible for the connection between our two communities. The representative, whose son had been frightened of the dancers and fled, went on to give an informative speech and distribute beautiful Bay blankets. Special dance categories, offering large prizes, had attracted dancers from all over the United States and Canada. I looked forward to those dances on the Saturday evening. It came as a surprise and big honour to be among some of the Orkney visitors asked to judge the competition dances. Thankfully, we had experts to guide us. The dancing was fantastic while drumming vibrated right up from the ground, through my body and seemed to explode above me like fireworks. Dancers flashed all round us, shouting for attention. What an experience! For two days and evenings dancers and drummers competed in a swirl of colour and skill while the drums beat and the singers tore at our hearts.

Sturgeon Lake Pow Wow dancers

We were asked to meet at the Pow Wow ground on Saturday morning. All was mystery, and the pace was slow, more sombre. We were driven to a sacred place. The men formed a circle, sitting on the ground where Alistair was invited to join them in a pipe ceremony. The pipe was lit and Elder Bill Ermine called upon the Creator to witness that his commands were being followed in the giving of smoke offerings. The mouthpiece swung around with the sun to the four points of the compass where the spirit powers to be addressed dwell. The elder prayed in Cree, but explained that he prayed for the two communities who had come together there. He prayed that we could help each other, learn from our different cultures and that the bonds between us would become stronger. We remembered the ancestors and their children from Canada and Orkney.

We were then driven along the banks of Sturgeon Lake to Asini Kanipawit, The Place where the Rocks Stand. There a stone circle of huge limestone boulders has been created. Isabel, who had known nothing of this, had with her a bag of stones from Warbeth Beach, near Stromness. The Orkney visitors were asked to place these stones round the circle.

Stone circle Lake Sturgeon

There are many, many ties between the First Nations people of Canada and the people of Orkney. I am happy that the Twatt family found each other after two hundred years. I have been most privileged to have been given the wonderful experiences which have changed my life. And I am so very proud of my Cree cousins. They are strong, kind, generous and very caring people and I wish they were not so far away.

I will end with words from the sign at that beautiful place where the rocks stand.

Asini Kanipawit was initiated after some members of Sturgeon Lake First Nation visited the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney in the summer of 2004. Asini Kanipawit was built to commemorate the visit of our friends and relatives from Orkney including Kim (Twatt) Foden and others who came to Sturgeon Lake First Nation Pow Wow July 22nd – 24th, 2005. Asini Kanipawit is dedicated to our common ancestors.

map of Lake Sturgeon

The Orkney News would like to thank Kim Twatt for sharing in her wonderful and inspiring journey. All photos are by Robert Foden with the exception of the one of Willie Ermine by Peter Stokes.

The work is dedicated to the memory of Harold Kingfisher.

Full Circle: An Orkney family reunited after 200 years separated by distance and culture (Part 12)

Kim Twatt copyright

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2 replies »

  1. My lord – so much there – and a stone circle.

    The last time we went to see a friend of ours, in St. Peters, we knew it would be the last time. So, we then went to Warbeth, to clear our heads, and brought home a stone, with concentric circles on it, which is by our house, and is her memorial stone.
    We really are, one people.

  2. I have enjoyed reading these 13 parts of Full Circle. What a wonderful story. Especially significant to me as I am a descendant of Magnus Twatt and Margaret. Their daughter Elizabeth (Twatt) Bremner is my 3X Great Grandmother. I live in Saskatoon Saskatchewan Canada and grew up not far from the Sturgeon Lake First Nation and have visited Sturgeon Lake a few times. It will be interesting to visit the grave of William Twatt and the stone circle.

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