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Take energy forward

Dear editor:

I’d like to address some of the recent comments around the market square and the fort idea.

First of all, it’s good to see so many people willing to share their thoughts. It quickly becomes clear how passionate our residents are about their community and where it is headed; and truly that’s not a great surprise.

I suggest we take this energy forward. As has been noted, where is the fort in Fort Frances?

I believe there are some things we must consider, however. I, too, always have been a fan of the fort idea. But as someone pointed out to me, is a fort inclusive of all our community?

Why was a fort built in the first place? No doubt the primary reason for our European explorers was to provide some sense of security in a region that was new and unknown. However, if you were on the other side of the door, it also might signal distrust and exclusion.

As it happens, the most serious aggression was between rival fur trade companies, but is a fort really the best way to celebrate our rich history?

Museums are on a push to identify what is unique to their region and then sell that idea. Clearly every museum could feature early-pioneer items, such as treadle sewing machines, flat irons, and blacksmith tools, but why then would anyone visit?

What is there about us that will draw the rest of Canada and the world to our door?

Our town has been on a similar path with our new brand and the advertising around it. What is unique about Fort Frances and why should anyone come here?

The fur trade always has been a focus for us. Lady Frances Simpson, our community’s namesake, was from that era. However, Fort William is covering the fur trade topic very well.

Fort Frances still should be part of the “Path of the Voyageur” initiative, but let’s take our goals in another direction.

Let’s look at an interpretive centre that celebrates the bigger picture. I believe we could agree that the best thing to come out of the fur trade was that two cultures met on equal footing and lived in mutual respect of each other.

The Europeans would not have survived in this harsh climate without a welcoming hand from the natives and the tools they had perfected: canoes, snowshoes, moccasins, and pemmican. In exchange, the natives benefited from those things that made their lives less labour-intensive: beads, iron pots, guns, and wool blankets.

The two cultures inter-married, producing the Métis to whom just about every family in our area has some link. And no, there was no stigma at that time in being a half-breed . . . at least for several generations.

But whatever mistakes we have made in our past, and we know there have been many, the people of this area made a really fantastic beginning together. Can we not celebrate and promote that?

We know what a great region this is. Everyone talks about how generous our residents are and how quick to help each other. We look forward to joining our neighbours at those events that are inclusive to all (i.e., the Rainy River First Nations’ annual fish fry).

Let’s explore the idea for a centre that focuses on what brings us together as a community. An interpretive centre would celebrate our founding cultures and the way they worked together.

We could expand on that theme to show what we are willing to do today to make this an inclusive community that welcomes cultural diversity and the opportunities that come hand-in-hand.

The Rainy Lake Market Square is a relatively small space. I feel the architects have done a good job of doing what they were asked to do.

But this was only step one. If the community is truly serious about something more here, then let’s welcome these great ideas that have come forward, invite all stakeholders to the table, and move ahead with an interpretive centre that will serve our entire community’s needs.

This area once was the destination for natives and fur traders travelling east and west. Why be content with being a brief stopping point when we can be a destination once again?

I would love to hear what support there is for an interpretive centre.

I submit this in my capacity as a Fort Frances resident, not only born here but where my children and grandchildren were born and reside.

Thank you for space in the paper.

(Signed),

Sherry George

Fort Frances, Ont.

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