The Mikinàk Ceremonial Lodge is an Indigenous gathering space located on the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. It is a place for Indigenous Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) employees and community members to come together, exchange ideas and perform traditional ceremonies.
It offers a teaching and learning environment that focuses on sharing Indigenous knowledge and lived experiences with Indigenous and non-Indigenous public servants. The Lodge also welcomes members of the public who wish to learn more about Indigenous cultures.
The Lodge is named “Mikinàk” (pronounced Mee-kee-nak), the Anishinaabe word for “turtle”, which is a sacred animal that represents “truth” to many Nations. In the context of the Mikinàk Lodge, which is located on Algonquin Anishinaabeg territory, the turtle carries the Anishinaabeg Grandfather Teaching of “Truth”. The Lodge is therefore a place where we speak about and acknowledge the “Truths” of our shared histories, which is a requirement of Reconciliation.
The Indigenous Network Circle (INC) at AAFC has spearheaded the making of the Lodge, with great support from other Indigenous employees and communities, as well as departmental officials.
“It’s a beginning point for something greater” — Orlando Blacksmith, INC co-chair.
West-facing side of the Mikinàk Ceremonial Lodge - building 39 on the Central Experimental Farm (Ottawa)
The design of the Lodge combines cultural elements and art work of the 3 Indigenous groups: First Nations, Métis Nation and Inuit.
At the heart of the Lodge, is a large main gathering room for visitors to get together and connect as a community. This is also a dedicated space for smudging ceremonies and it is home to a Qulliq Oil Lamp, which is used by the Inuit Peoples to keep their homes warm.
This traditional tool is made out of soapstone and is fueled by blubber from seals and whales to burn wicks made out of arctic cotton grass.
Main gathering room (circular in shape).
[Positive music starts slowly. We see the outside of the new, small one-storey building with flowers and plants around it and the sun coming up].
[Image of Senator Murray Sinclair.]
Text on Screen: "We have to turn that 150 years of negativity into generations of positivity" Senator Murray Sinclair
[From an aerial perspective we see the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, Ontario.]
Narrator: There is a new building located on the un-ceded Algonquin territory known as Ottawa. It is on the land occupied by the Central Experimental Farm. The building is small. But it signifies a big shift towards the "positivity" of which Senator Murray Sinclair spoke.
[We see blueprints of the building and a construction working studying the plans.]
The building is the new Mikinàk Ceremonial Lodge.
[Music rises a notch. We see the building from an aerial perspective.]
Text on screen: Mikinàk Ceremonial Lodge
[We see into the main meeting room where three Indigenous employees are in a meeting and one person is on the screen of the videoconference system. On the table are ceremonial materials such as corn and deerskin.]
Narrator: The Mikinàk Ceremonial Lodge is a place for Indigenous employees at the federal department of Agriculture and Agri-Food (or AAFC). It is a place to gather, learn, reflect, pray and be in ceremony together.
[The camera moves closer to a painting in the lodge of two people in prayer.]
Narrator: It is a place where other federal employees and those from outside organizations can learn about Indigenous cultures and build on the work of reconciliation. It will also be available for Indigenous communities to use.
[We see a group of Indigenous employees in a circle near a corn field. Then a series of images of individual Indigenous employees.]
Narrator: Over the past decade, more and more Indigenous employees have joined the ranks of the federal public service. There are now over 100 Indigenous employees at AAFC. Each year, the department also hires a new cohort of 50 to 75 Indigenous students from across the country. They have taken their places in the halls of governance. They are scientists, policy analysts and research support staff, educational advisors, managers, directors, business analysts, administrators and more.
[We see again the blueprints and the building under construction.]
Narrator: A number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous contributed to the building of the Mikinàk Ceremonial Lodge. Its design combines cultural elements of the three Indigenous groups: First Nations, Métis Nation and Inuit.
[Archival portraits of Darren Cook and Mervin Traverse.]
Text on screen: Darren Cook / Mervin Traverse
Narrator: Two people in particular were the visionaries — Darren Cook and Mervin Traverse. They have both since retired from the federal public service. But this lodge would not exist were it not for their hard work and perseverance.
[We see three people meeting in one of the building's common areas.]
Narrator: More than a sacred meeting place, since its opening, Mikinàk Ceremonial Lodge has become the meeting place for Indigenous employees from all federal departments who work in the fields of Science Technology Engineering and Math. That group is known as the iStem cluster. And they represent a bright future for the federal government and for the country.
[Shots of the gardens and the individual plants.]
Narrator: The gardens around the building are planted with traditional medicines. Inside, it can be said that a powerful healing is taking place. But it is greater than that. It is about empowering everyone, Indigenous Peoples and Settlers, to create generations of positivity together.
[We again see an aerial view of the building and gardens together.]
It's a humble structure. At the same time, the Mikinàk Ceremonial Lodge is a bold, tangible expression of reconciliation.
[The music changes. The next sequence features four Indigenous federal public servants each one after another, individually, expressing what the new ceremonial lodge means to them.]
Text on screen: Emily Missyabit-McAuley, Acting Director, Acting Director, Indigenous Science Liaison Office and Interdepartmental Indigenous STEM (I-STEM) Cluster, AAFC
Emily Missyabit-McAuley: You know what this place really means to me? This is a space where Indigenous public servants have come together to work together with allies, to create a space where future generations of Indigenous public servants and allies can come together to continue doing this work. And especially where our Indigenous youth who are coming into government — they have their culture, but they want to stay connected. This represents a place where they can do that and still be public servants and be true to themselves and that's really what this place means to me.
Text on screen: Jackie Mason, Manager, Indigenous Support and Awareness Office and INC Management Champion, AAFC
Jackie Mason: The first thought that comes to mind for me is that this is a real concrete action that the Department is taking towards reconciliation. I've been with the Department for over 20 years, and I have to say honestly that it has been the last two years that I've really seen the Indigenous files pushed to the forefront. And it is so good for me to be able to witness that and see it. It also tells me that they value the skills and the work that the Indigenous peoples bring to the Department and that they are committed to continuing to work with the Indigenous peoples.
Text on screen: Jake Freeman, Indigenous Science Liaison Officer, Indigenous Science Liaison Office, AAFC
Jake Freeman: I just like that it's a place where all First Nations, Métis Nation, Inuit employees and not just employees, but people who share the territory will have a welcoming space together.
Text on screen: Angelene Trout, Research Analyst, Science and Policy Sector, Public Services and Procurement Canada
Angelene Trout: The Lodge means empowerment for me as an Indigenous person. It's a culturally safe space where all employees and people can come learn who First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation people are.
[Canada wordmark. End.]
The Healing Garden surrounds the Mikinàk Ceremonial Lodge. This garden, which will take a few years to complete, will be home to traditional medicines such as sage, cedar, sweetgrass, willow fungus and other traditional medicines for users’ personal or ceremonial use.
INC and Indigenous community members during the inauguration of the Mikinàk Ceremonial Lodge in September 2022.
Close up of the garden
For more information on the Mikinàk Ceremonial Lodge, to book a tour or to request guidance on hosting an Indigenous learning activity, please contact the Indigenous Support and Awareness Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.