Along the shore of the Grand River, a circle of people watched on as a gift of tobacco and water from a copper vessel are poured into the river as part of the traditional Anishinaabe water ceremony that kicked off Doors Open Waterloo Region, which chose ‘Water’ as the 2019 theme.
The ceremony also included the burning sage, cedar and tobacco; singing songs in thanks to water; and a discussion on the importance and interconnectedness of the substance.
The discussion shed light on the lack of access to clean water in First Nations communities, where boil water advisories can be in effect for decades and people survive on 1.5 litres of water a day.
Doors Open is an opportunity to learn about the inner workings of the Region, and this year’s theme made some of the events particularly poignant.
At the Greenbrook Water Treatment plant, guests could see all the steps taken to create clean, drinkable water from groundwater aquifers.
It was a packed house, as guests eagerly listened to the guides explain the different methods of purifying water, like using UV light to kill dangerous bacteria.
In nearby Victoria Park, Graham Whiting—a local architect, led an event exploring the natural history of water in the area.
Many guests lived in the immediate area and mentioned past issues with basement flooding.
Whiting explained the flood control measures in place in Kitchener, how water moves through the landscape, and also expressed the importance of retaining permeable green spaces around streams for flood management.
Between stops on the tour, as the crowd walked around the park, guests would share their own knowledge with each other – like how to keep water out of their basements, and how to use it better in their gardens.
At the old Waterloo County Gaol and Governor’s House, older couples chatted with the guide about their memories, while a young family tried to wrangle their kids who excitedly ran from exhibit to exhibit in the background, eager to learn new things.
Like water – present but always changing – the Region of Waterloo is constantly reinventing itself and moving forward.
Doors Open acted as a catalyst for this kind of sharing.
It’s an interesting way to showcase the community by opening spaces to guests, but also their eyes and minds.