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Travelling the river of life

Bonnie Freeman's research on the Two Row journey — a symbol of co-operation and friendship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples — began with a three-day paddle down the Grand River.

Mar 26, 2018

Two summers ago, social work professor Bonnie Freeman participated in a three-day paddling journey down the Grand River, aimed at promoting understanding and alliances between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. But Freeman and her canoeing partner got some extra insight — when they capsized.

Freeman, who is Algonquin/Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, had never paddled a canoe until two days earlier, when she took an hour-long canoe lesson. She had invited a colleague — Trish Van Katwyk from the University of Waterloo, also a novice paddler — to join her in the canoe.

The pair had a rough time for the first day and a half, trying to keep up with the larger group, before ultimately flipping their canoe.

“It was pivotal point for us — we had been working against each other, and now we realized we each had different but complementary responsibilities within the canoe, and we had to work together, hear and understand. The canoe became a conduit in understanding alliances, a bridge between our two paths.”

The Two Row journey

Freeman has been studying Indigenous journeys across land and water for many years. It was the focus of her doctoral dissertation, and she has participated in several journeys herself.

“Indigenous people take these journeys so they can connect to their culture, healing from the generations of genocide and trauma they have experienced,” she explains... Continue reading on McMaster Brighter World