New Ottawa farm offers host of activities including Tagwàgi festival

A company called Indigenous Experiences has taken over a farm in the city.

The Mādahòkì Farm sits on about 65 hectares of traditional Algonquin land in what is known as the city of Ottawa’s Greenbelt area in the west end.

Mādahòkì is the Algonquin word for “share the land”

Indigenous Experiences began leasing the land earlier this month.

The organization’s executive director says the project is all about connecting to the land.

“We did really want to find a location that allowed us to have more of that connection to the land,” Trina Mather-Simard says. “And really be able to share our culture and build our organization in new ways. So, we started kind of looking at farm properties and came across what was the former Lone Star Ranch, here in Ottawa.”

The farm’s first major event is the Tagwàgi or Autumn Festival.

“We have a celebration stage,” Mather-Simard says. “We are doing the Thanksgiving address. We are also doing the three sisters corn beans and squash play. Along with a powwow dance performance. So, again, celebrating some of those harvest activities.”

One of the highlights of the festival is the Ojibwe spirit horses.

Native to North America, these horses existed on the continent prior to colonization.

However, considered a pest by farmers, they were killed off over the decades and faced extinction by the 1970s.

Northern Ontario artist Rhonda Snow has made it her lifelong passion to revive the breed.

“When I was a young girl, I sat around the staircases of the loggers’ houses and listened to the stories of the little ponies and I was so shy I just hid there waiting for my girlfriend to come out and play,” she says. “And I heard about these little tiny horses that used to live in the woods and in the bush and thought some day I’m going to find them.”

Snow would eventually end up owning her own herd of spirit horses and at one point had as many as 60.

She says the survival of the horses from post-colonial extinction is similar to that of the resilience of Indigenous Peoples as a whole.

“Just like the Indigenous Peoples’ cultures were stripped from them, the native ponies, their ways of being with their families and herds were stripped from them also. And just because they’re little, doesn’t mean they’re mighty. It’s the littlest things in nature that are sometimes the most important that get stepped on. And these little ponies did and so did the culture of the people, the language.”

The fall festival wraps up this weekend.

Mather-Simard says plans are already in the works to hold a winter festival on the farm in early December.


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