Tim Yearington sits with the Mohawk flag, an Algonquin flag from the Sharbot Lake area, and the Metis Nation flag on the grounds of the Bellevue House in Kingston on Saturday. Yearington will be speaking with visitors about traditional Indigenous teachings and knowledge during the summer at the National Historic Site. (Meghan Balogh/The Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network)
A unique partnership is unfolding at Bellevue House this summer.
The National Historic Site, once home to Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, is hosting a number of Saturdays with Tim Yearington, an Algonquin-Metis Knowledge Keeper.
Yearington lives in Kingston but grew up in North Bay with an adoptive family. It wasn’t until later in his life that he began exploring his roots.
“My home territory is Kitchizibi, which means ‘Great River,’ and that’s the Ottawa River,” Yearington said during an interview on Saturday. “I was adopted, so I didn’t know who I was, as an adoptee. But I always felt a connection to my native roots, and my whole life I’ve been searching for that.
“I finally started to get answers, and as I got more and more answers, I was learning more teachings and knowledge. I realized it was important to share those with other people. … The traditional knowledge that we carry should be shared with everyone. We’re in a time of reparations and healing here in Canada.”
Yearington speaks regularly at schools and universities, companies, government departments and correctional facilites sharing traditional knowledge.
Yearington was approached by Bellevue House to share knowledge from the traditional territory of the Mohawk, Algonquin, Ojibway, Mississauga and Metis — land upon which Kingston now sits. It’s his first time being employed by a National Historic Site.
“I was approached to share about our traditional perspective, our world view, our way of life, and to do that by way of teachings and storytelling around the fire.”
Yearington said people today are more open-minded, open-hearted and conscious of Indigenous perspectives. He’s ready to share with people coming through Bellevue House, which has connections to sinister history for Indigenous people in Canada.
“It’s interesting, and actually rather ironic, when we think of what John A. Macdonald did as a forefather of Canada. … I think it’s a good sign that, even though he was here and the father of the Indian Act and the forerunner of genocide in Canada, that it’s OK now to be here. It’s safe to allow an Indigenous presence here in Kingston, which is traditional territory. I think it’s a good sign that Canada’s growing up, taking responsibility for the injustices of the past.”
Yearington feels that his presence at Bellevue House wouldn’t have happened a few years ago.
“No one would be here talking about Indigenous world view and knowledge. I think there’s a shift in the attitude. This is a big step, I think, if Parks Canada is consciously and intentionally sourcing out a traditional Knowledge Keeper such as myself to come and share the things I know with the general population in Canada,” he said.
“What’s next? I feel like a trailblazer. Maybe in a couple years there could be an installation here staffed by an Indigenous student for the whole summer. It’s an open door now.”
Yearington wants visitors to feel comfortable asking questions about history, even if parts of that history are dark. He wants guests to leave with that experience of open communication.
“It’s OK to talk about some of the things that might be uncomfortable in the past,” he said. “It’s OK to talk about the things that happened in Canada, and to take responsibility for those things. It’s OK to be ignorant and not know certain […]
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