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June 2, 2006

The Angele Project

As I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago the life and times of Angele Egwuna (1888-1955) will be profiled in a unique exhibition at the W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery in North Bay June 10th to July 13th.  Here are more details about the event.  Angele was the Bear Island Teme-Augama Anishnabi woman who had a major influence on the Canadian icon Grey Owl “the best known Canadian author and lecturer of his day” in the 1930’s. 

 The Lalonde Family

The exhibition is unique in that it provides a significant historical perspective on Angele’s life, Archie Belaney (before he became Grey Owl) and native life on Lake Temagami during that early period when life was changing rapidly there.  During Archie’s 5 years there he was immersed in the native language and culture and built the foundation for his remarkable work as a conservationist, naturalist, author and advocate of native rights. 

When Archie moved on Angele proved to be a very capable woman living off the land with her and Archie’s daughter Agnes at her side.  They hunted and trapped for a decade living in a wigwam and traveling in birch bark canoes they built themselves.  They fished in season, picked berries, made crafts and traded for their necessities.  They eventually built a log cabin on Faskin Point and used it regularly for years as necessary before eventually moving to Temagami. 

As daughter Agnes grew up she began to work in Temagami and at summer camps and became an excellent cook eventually establishing her own home in Temagami which the family used for years.  Angele remained friends with Archie in spite of his long absences and Angele had a child Ben from another relationship and had a daughter Flora with Archie after his last visit in 1925. 

Angele was a hard working optimistic and generous woman.  She was married to Willie Turner for 11 years prior to her death in 1955.  Agnes married had four children and eventually moved to North Bay where she established boarding houses.  She became the matriarch of a large extended family many of whom lived nearby. 

As Grey Owl became famous Agnes was interviewed many times including by me in 1989.  Much of the material from these interviews was reviewed as a part of the research for the exhibition.  Agnes knew Gertrude Bernard who became Anahareo, the other great influence in Grey Owl’s life.  It was while visiting Bear Island, and Angele and Agnes in 1925 that Archie met Gertrude. 

When she moved to North Bay Agnes visited schools on occasion to talk about her life and was guest of honour at the unveiling of a plaque in Finlayson Provincial Park in Temagami celebrating Grey Owl’s life. 

Agnes Lalonde, Grey Owl's daughter, and her son Albert Lalonde

She lived to age 89 and died in 1998 just missing the 1999 Grey Owl movie.  Some of her family attended the movie set and original screenings of the movie.  The family, especially son Albert Lalonde, have been consultants on the development of the exhibition.  Nipissing University oral history students interviewed some of the people who knew Agnes.  Many artists, native and non-native, have made a contribution to the exhibition, making their connections to the story.  Dermot Wilson co-curator of the show has prepared a fascinating video juxtaposing family movies of him playing Indian etc. with some of the original film footage of Grey Owl form Prince Albert Park in Saskatchewan. 

The exhibition is open from 11-5 Tuesday through Friday – Saturday 12-4 in Gallery One & Two at the Kennedy in the Capitol Centre at 150 Main Street West in downtown North Bay. 

The exhibition’s opening will take place on Saturday, June 10 at 2pm.  There will be native drumming, a smudging ceremony and an Honour Song for Angele.  Many of Angele’s descendants will be recognized and granddaughter Kimberly Lalonde will speak on behalf of the family.  Several other guests will speak briefly, and a memorial paddle will be signed by family and guests.  Refreshments will be served. 

On Sunday, June 11 at 2pm at the Gallery there will be an illustrated talk by this writer and by artist curator Arli Hoffman.  On Thursday June 15 there is a special Angele Day when the Grey Owl movie will be shown, the exhibition will be toured, and the talk above will be repeated.  That evening two authors who have a connection with and affection for Grey Owl will speak and sign their books.  Armand Ruffo who has a strong connection with Biscotasing where Grey Owl lived for years has written a book of poetry on Grey Owl.  “Hap” Wilson who has written extensively about Temagami and painted Temagami themes (including a portrait of Grey Owl) will show slides of Temagami and comment on the project. 

The Kennedy will also be running a series of tours for students during the week where they will interact with the story, visit the exhibition and see the Grey Owl movie. 

For further information see www.kennedygallery.org, call the Capitol Centre at 474-1944 or drop in to the Gallery at 150 Main Street East.  There is no charge for any of these activities.  The Cultural Gathering in Mattawa celebrating the life of the other important native woman in Grey Owl’s life will take place in Mattawa on Saturday June 17 beginning at 10:30 a.m.  See www.culturalgathering.com

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