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April 7, 2010

May Museum Month Comes to Commanda

Museum Month in Ontario started early on April 24th at the Commanda Community Centre where the Commanda Heritage Centre held its first Annual Membership Gala. I had the pleasure of attending the talk by W. A. Bill Allen well known historian from Burks Falls who talked about the South River, local native people and other related history.

The Commanda General Store was built in 1885 and relocated to Hwy 522 in 1978 where it became a museum with the same name. Many dedicated volunteers developed this unique Victorian structure. The current board chaired by Jaimie Board has an exciting summer planned and a long term heritage sponsorship plan including a mortgage reduction campaign. It is now called the Commanda Heritage Centre. The packed hall for Bill Allen is a good sign.

The Near North Heritage Group

Commanda is one of 9 area museums that form the Near North Heritage Group of area museums. Google for information. For information on the Commanda Centre email commanda@nnhg.ca or call Jaimie Board at 729-1384.

Nipissing Before 1884

Bill Allen is a retired teacher, heritage enthusiast, and certified archaeologist with an interest in the local area. He has a special interest in the native history. He played an important part in the South River Watershed Management Plan several years ago (the numbers below indicate some of my articles on the south river area (Google Heritage Perspectives and look for the # in the index and click on title. For an article on Commanda click on #21 and for one on the Watershed Plan see #169.)

Pat Haufe introduced Bill and thanked him for his leadership. The room was circled with numerous large maps and Bill used a power point presentation in his talk.

Bill Allen and Roger Noganosh at Commanda Heritage Centre presentation. D. Mackey photo.

Roger Noganosh, Billís companion on many of his excursions came from the Magnetewan First Nation Reserve near Britt for the evening. Several members of the reserve attended. The reserve is located where the Magnetewan River enters Georgian Bay. A tributary ,the Nagonosh River, enters the Magnetawan nearby. The Magnetewan was an important travel route in the past. Roger assisted with a smudging ceremony, drumming and chanting as a part of the native overtone to the event. It was fitting that the event was held in Commanda a venerable native name.

Bill brought out many fascinating pieces of information on the South River and area. People know the significance of the Ottawa, Mattawa, French River route in our history but donít realize how the South River and its link with the Nipissing River further south played an important role in our history. The name Nipissing so far south is an indication of the reach of the Nipissing First Nation or the Nipissignan as they were originally called.

The archaeology of images on rock faces often visited with Roger Nogonosh ,are of special interest to Bill Allen. Often referred to as rock art Bill and Roger see the images as documentation of history. They made a long trip to south Illinois to visit a special site which they described in detail. While there they visited Cahokia an ancient native site going back to long before contact that showed the remarkable advancement of native people. (Google the name for fascinating details). Bill pointed out how many native names are still in use today. His use of the native language during his talk was fascinating.

The talk, among other things, pointed out how stone tools also show advanced use of technology in early native society.

All in all a revealing look at our past. Bill Allen can be contacted at Heritage One 705-382-3706 in Burkís Falls or at heritage1@magma.ca.

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