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Sheguiandah roundhouse destroyed in early morning fire

Second suspicious fire in the community since late April

SHEGUIANDAH FN鈥擜 roundhouse that was the dream project of Sheguiandah Elder Gord Waindubence baa and the site of many important Anishinaabek Nation gatherings and ceremonies was destroyed in an early morning fire on Tuesday, June 4 that remains under investigation.

Firefighters from the NEMI Fire Department responded to the blaze around 5:30 am and, although the firefighters were quickly able to 鈥渒nock the fire down鈥 and completely cleared the scene after a three-hour battle, the structure was completely engulfed by the time the firefighters were on the scene.

鈥淲hen we got here the propane tanks were already venting off,鈥 said NEMI Fire Chief Duane Deschamps at the scene. 

Given the extent of the damage, the fire likely started on the lake side of the building, out of sight of the main road and at the opposite side from the propane tanks.

This is the second fire with deep personal connections to the Waindubence family to take place within the past few weeks, the first resulting in the destruction of a historic decommissioned Anglican Church whose reconstruction was the dream project of Clara Waindubence baa.

Luckily, no one was injured in either blaze.

The Sheguiandah roundhouse fully engulfed, before fire crews arrived. photo courtesy Duane Deschamps

UCCM Anishinaabe Police Service Staff Sargeant Brad Mack confirmed the police are investigating the fire with the assistance of the OPP, but no cause has yet been determined.

An emotion-charged pipe carrier gathering was held at the site in the following day, officiated by Chop Waindubence, son of respected elder Gord Waindubence.

Renovations and repair of the Roundhouse and Community Centre was the subject of heated debate at the Sheguiandah First Nation council table, with Councillors Orville and Jake Aguonie arguing the building would be too expensive to repair and should be torn down.

鈥淭his devastating event has left us all in shock and mourning,鈥 said Ogimaa Jason Aguonie in a community notice. 鈥淭he roundhouse was not just a building; it was a symbol of our community鈥檚 strength, dedication and unity. We milled the lumber ourselves, creating a structure that embodied our collective spirit and hard work.鈥

Ogimaa Aguonie assured the community that a thorough investigation would be conducted to determine what happened. 鈥淩est assured, we are committed to uncovering the cause and ensuring the safety of our community. We understand that this loss impacts us all and we encourage anyone with information or concerns to come forward. Together we will support each other through this difficult time.鈥

Article written by

Michael Erskine
Michael Erskine
Michael Erskine BA (Hons) is a staff writer at The Manitoulin Expositor. He received his honours BA from Laurentian University in 1987. His former lives include underground miner, oil rig roughneck, early childhood educator, elementary school teacher, college professor and community legal worker. Michael has written several college course manuals and has won numerous Ontario Community Newspaper Awards in the rural, business and finance and editorial categories.