After donating $50,000 in 2021, Wolf Energy is continuing its support of the Woodland Cultural Centre by donating another $20,000 to support the Brantford-based centre’s work in Indigenous cultural reclamation.
Leonard Montour, a Turtle Clan Mohawk and a band member of Wahta First Nation, is the CEO and owner of Wolf Energy, a gas station in Wahta Mohawk Territory near Bala. He called the donation “an honour and a duty” and said making a second large donation is a way to reaffirm his team’s commitment to supporting and preserving Indigenous culture and heritage. He also plans to make another $30,000 donation on Nov. 1, bringing his total contributions to $100,000.
“The Woodland Cultural Centre does an incredible job in educating and raising awareness,” Montour said. “Being able to contribute to such a cause feels like we’re playing a part in ensuring that the stories, lessons and history remain preserved for future generations.”
Wolf Energy fundraises year-round through the sale of items like t-shirts, flags, keychains and stickers. They also collect money in a donation box and hold an annual fundraising event to raise awareness for Orange Shirt Day and related causes.
Montour presented the $20,000 donation to Wahta Chief Philip Franks, who serves on the board of the Woodland Cultural Centre, on Oct. 1. They held the cheque presentation at the station and offered educational opportunities like drumming and a seminar on sage smudging.
“It wasn’t just about handing over a cheque – it was about celebrating our Indigenous traditions,” Montour said. “Being at Wolf Energy and surrounded by both our team and community members, there was an overwhelming sense of pride and unity.”
Moments like this remind them of their mission, he said. The Wahta Mohawk community has shown unwavering support by buying hundreds of shirts and through many other displays of solidarity.
He urges Canadians to immerse themselves in Indigenous history and culture by visiting places like the Woodland Cultural Centre, which is located at the site of a former residential school. The resources available at institutions like the cultural centre can help people learn about the past and present challenges that First Nations communities are up against.
“We’re big supporters because they’re all about preserving and celebrating Indigenous culture,” he said. “To truly understand and respect Indigenous communities, you need to learn our stories, struggles and triumphs.”
Heather George, executive director of the Woodland Cultural Centre, said the support from Wolf Energy has had a profound impact on the staff. It’s a form of recognition that can make a huge difference in morale, particularly because their projects often come with lengthy timelines.
“Sometimes you feel like, ‘Nobody sees what I’m doing’ or ‘We’re not making enough progress quickly enough,’” she said. “But then, when people do recognize that work for the staff, it really motivates them and it makes them really want to continue to put all of their energy and their love into this work because we see that the community is putting their energy and their love into it as well.”
George said that Montour is one of their top donors, and the fact that he’s part of the community makes it all the more special. Given Wolf Energy’s continual support, she’s hoping that the centre can host an event for the next donation to celebrate and thank them for their contributions.
The centre allows donors to identify how they would like the funds used, but Montour opted to let the centre use it wherever needed. The most recent donation will likely go toward infrastructure upgrades as well as their language and education departments.
“One of the things that I’ve had to say to people over and over is that reconciliation doesn’t happen for free, and it’s not without effort,” she said. “That effort can be emotional. It can be building those relationships. But, also, it really is in the real dollars that it takes to run a cultural centre whose goal is around revitalization and reclamation.”
Montour’s donations have already covered the equivalent of two staff salaries for a year, she said, so it makes a real impact on their operations. In addition to the donation, the centre has lots of other exciting news to share.
Over the next year or so, they’ll be hosting exhibitions related to carving and painting, the Indigenous relationship to land, language preservation, and more. They also have a hide tanning workshop and several film screenings in the works. They’re currently raising money for the creation of a new cultural centre and plan to reopen the Mohawk Institute building to the public on Sept. 30 next year.
Along with engaging with the resources and activities at the centre, George said non-Indigenous Canadians can honour the truth side of the Truth and Reconciliation process by listening to the stories of Indigenous people. Beyond that, they can show their support by matching the donations from community members.
“In culture and heritage work, and especially when we’re doing cultural reclamation and language revitalization, every dollar counts,” she said. “For us, especially when we see it coming from our own community, it lets us know that people value the work that we’re doing.”
To learn more about the Woodland Cultural Centre, visit its website.