"Today, on June 11th, 2014, we, the citizens of the Lake Simcoe Watershed, hereby declare Lake Simcoe a Heritage Lake and pledge to work together to protect her from further harm."
With those words, the dream of "giving Lake Simcoe the recognition it deserves" became reality for a group of dedicated Lake Simcoe people. Led by Marj Mossman and Barbara Love, Heritage Lake Simcoe has worked with persistence and determination to have Lake Simcoe recognized as a Heritage Lake.
The declaration was read by Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Vice-Provost (Aboriginal Initiatives) at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Wesley-Esquimaux is also a member of the Chippewa of Georgina Island First Nation in Lake Simcoe, where she has a home.
The ceremony took place during the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation's annual conservation dinner, which is the LSCF's signature event to raise money for environmental projects and programs to help Lake Simcoe. The dinner was held at The Manor, at Carrying Place Golf and Country Club in King Township, on the Lake Simcoe Watershed and on traditional territories of the Chippewa Nation.
Dr. Wesley-Esquimaux began her presentation by thanking the Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority for the invitation to speak to those attending the dinner. She reminded everyone that the lands they were meeting on were the traditional territories of the Chippewa Nation. And the Chippewa people still live on traditional territory on Georgina Island, in Lake Simcoe.
She then welcomed everyone to this beautiful place, called the “Carrying Place” — another acknowledgement of those who have lived here for so long.
She reminded everyone that the ability of non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples to maintain a positive relationship is a very important step forward into a powerful and mutually engaged future.
Dr. Wesley-Esquimaux thanked the people who have worked so hard for the past four years to have Lake Simcoe declared a Heritage Lake and to “give Lake Simcoe the recognition it deserves.”
She then read the following invocation for the Lake:
Flowing, sparkling, cool and giving each and every moment — Ashuniong (Chippewa for Silver Lake) — created by massive sheets of ice, rocks, and earth moving, tumbling, shifting, and shaping our today.
From zero to 400,000 souls now occupying her shores, taking, and leaving human refuse and waste, reshaping her elegance, hardening her edges, polluting her waters, and casually throwing away tomorrow.
Our Ancestors have walked where you walk — footsteps always leave traces of living where they cross the landscape — what of tomorrow?
Will we leave the gentle echo of footsteps made with reverence and care — or the crush of overdevelopment? This is ours to decide.
Tonight, together, we declare this lake, our lake, and now your lake as well, a Heritage Lake, a designation of respect and a mutual future. A place of sacred living, protected from the vagaries of contemporary living by a soulful knowing and respecting, a new shaping, shifting, and embodying of graceful remembrance and hope.
She asked everyone to rise and make a solemn pledge to protect Lake Simcoe:
I pledge to protect the waters, shores, and health of Lake Simcoe today and into the future.
I will stand and raise my voice in protest when it is necessary, I will celebrate her many gifts, and will ensure the next seven generations can swim in, drink of, fish in, and love this lake as a healthy and thriving source of life in, under and on her sparkling waters.
Today, on June 11, 2014, we, the citizens of the Lake Simcoe Watershed, hereby declare Lake Simcoe a Heritage Lake and pledge to work together to protect her from further harm.
Dr. Wesley-Esquimaux closed the invocation with an invitation to join the Water Walk around Lake Simcoe.
Please see the story at lakesimcoeliving.com for the dates of the walk, and the schedule of where to meet up with the walkers.
Photo by Caley Taylor: From left to right, Christine Dukelow, Paula Warder, Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Marj Mossman, Gayle Wood, Barbara Love and Johanna Powell.