The idea of the Beacon Project was inspired by the sharing of a journey and a meal between Dianne Whelan, Ann Verrall and Cecelia Brooks in May 2016. Dianne is on a 5-year pilgrimage across the Trans Canada Trail, making a feature documentary called 500 Days in the Wild with Ann Verrall.

Cecelia Brooks and Dianne Whelan on the Wolastoq (Photo by Ann Verrall)

Prior to paddling the Wolastoq (Saint John) River, Dianne came across information about Cecelia Brooks, Samuqwan Mi’kiju (The Water Grandmother) with the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick and Director of Research & Indigenous knowledge at Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Incorporated (MTI) an organization of Mi’kmaq Chiefs of New Brunswick. Cecelia is combining traditional Indigenous knowledge from Elders with science to build a holistic understanding of environmental issues. Dianne knew she had to meet Cecelia.

Cecelia joined Dianne for a day of canoeing on Wolastoq, which is part of the Trail, and then invited us for to her home for a meal of moose bulgogi, golden rod greens and cucumber salad — a Korean/Indigenous fusion. As we got to know Cecelia more, we soon realized there was a much bigger story that couldn’t be included in the feature film. For more information on Dianne and Cecelia’s journey on the river check out the 500 Days in the Wild Blog.

Ann and Lindsay Dobbin both have a long history of doing community video/sound collaboration projects, so the concept of combining these processes of working came about. At the same time the Canada Council for the Arts created The New Chapter fund which inspired us to envision a project that echoed the expanse of the 500 Days in the Wild project. We choose three locations across Canada to base our creative community engagement projects — New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and the Yukon. These are places where at least one of the members of the Quiver Artist Collective already have strong connections to, and the communities are also along the Trans Canada Trail. We are so grateful to the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting this project.

Elder Howard Augustine shares stories of the land at Metepenagiag Heritage Park with Dianne Whelan (Photo by Ann Verrall)

When we discussed the idea with Cecelia she immediately knew who we needed to bring into the project and where we needed to go, and became our Community Wisdom Partner. So almost a year later in March 2017 we returned to Cecelia’s where she hosted us for the week! Cecelia brought us to Metepenagiag Heritage Park, Red Bank, NB on The Oxbow River. There we collaborated with Elder Howard Augustine, The Sacred Wolf Singers and Marie Krysko. We filmed exchanges and music performances. Back at Cecelia’s over tea, Elder Jeannie Bartibogue shared she experiences and thoughts on women, the land, spirituality and what we need for a healthy positive future together.

Elder Jeannie Bartibue describes true balance and health in Cecelia Brooks kitchen, with Dianne Whelan and Lindsay Dobbin (Photo by Ann Verrall)

While Dianne continued on the trail in Ontario, Lindsay and Ann returned to Cecelia’s and Red Bank to share a rough cut of the project, talk more with Howard and collect more footage. This Beacon Project: Indigenous Traditional Knowledge & The Water Grandmother continues to evolve. Check out the page about the project here.

Tee Cloud of the Sacred Wolf Singers carry their drum to location in Metepenagiag (Photo by Ann Verrall)