Where the waters divide: Jon Erik Kroon took us on a tour of Walpole Island and surrounding area last weekend, the water was high after a severe rain storm earlier on in the week and it was easy to see how the river delta has defined this region for millenia. Walpole First Nation is called Bkejwanong (where the rivers divide) by the Ojibwa, Potawatomi and Ottawa who have lived there for thousands of years.
Jon Erik first took us to the Highbanks cemetery on Walpole island, (the highest location around this river delta) located precisely where the river divides and the Snye goes inland toward present-day Wallaceberg, while the St. Clair veers southwest, emptying out at Lake St. Clair a few miles down. At Highbanks, Jon Erik pointed out the areas where his father had located the sites of ancient burial plots, bundle burials, an indigenous practice throughout the Americas where the body of the deceased is arranged in a fetal position and wrapped in cloth with “gifts” for the afterlife placed nearby. Highbanks also has a ‘modern’ end with grave sites marked by tombstones, and a monument to a historical treaty made on St. Anne’s Island (now Walpole) by Alexander McKee, representative to King George III in 1796 ceding land to the Ojibwa people and affirming the “rights and independence of all the Indian Nations”, including the rights to be “free and unmolested in their trade and hunting grounds and to pass and repass freely undisturbed to trade with whom they please.” Perhaps this is why the location is also the site for yearly pow wows in June, when Walpole becomes a gathering place for indigenous peoples throughout North America (and as far away as Latin America) to trade medicines and plants from this region.
It is also thought that Chief Tecumseh’s burial site is here, marked by a cairn on the shore of the St. Clair River.