Aboriginal awareness

Share Button

The Cree Indian Centre in Chibougamau (CICC) opened its doors on September 25 to Natives and non-Natives to promote Aboriginal awareness. The annual Journées de la Culture takes place throughout Quebec from Sept. 24-26. The activities at the CICC included guided tours around the centre’s museum as well as a dream-catcher workshop.

The CICC is about 40 years old, and for over the last four years it has hosted Les Journées de la Culture for people who want to learn more about Aboriginal culture, such as the nomadic life Crees used to live and the different aspects and tools used to live that life. The purpose of the CICC is to bridge Natives and non-Natives by offering services, events and shelter (via its hostel). It sells a variety of arts and crafts representing Aboriginal art and culture and it has a small museum. In the museum, there is a display case that contains one Canadian dollar with the inscription: “This is the original purchase price of the Cree Indian Centre from the Diocese of Moosonee – 1974”.

Plans have also been made to start its own drum circle representing the Crees in the region. Many people pass through the CICC daily because it is next to an English-language school therefore most Cree students walk over to the CICC for lunch. There is also a youth centre, with a pool table, a television with Playstation 3 and Internet access.

CICC executive director Jo-Ann Toulouse guided guests around the centre explaining its history as well as Aboriginal history. The Crees were once nomadic, constantly changing their locations seasonally and hunting for food daily. This life led to the creation and utilization of many different tools used daily, such as animal fur for warmth during the winter, canoes, snowshoes and toboggans for transportation, baby carriers and wrist warmers. These tools were an important aspect in Cree life because they allowed our ancestors to survive and live off nature peacefully. It’s amazing how Crees still use most of these tools today even with the advancement of technology.

Crees still try to live the traditional way of life by going hunting seasonally, like moose hunting and goose break, when they relocate from their homes to cabins or tents in the bush. Hunting is an important aspect in Cree culture because it derives from our ancestors. After a successful kill, everyone would share their food and have a huge feast.

One of the artifacts in the museum is a 57-year-old Indian card that states “The North American Indian Nation Government” at the top. It was issued at a time when Crees didn’t want the Canadian government to recognize them as Canadian citizens but as their own race, with their own government. In the 1950s, anyone who possessed such a card would be considered a rebel and some were even thrown into jail. The card identifies the holder as an Indian and recognizes numerous rights, such as exploring North American territory as a hunter, fisherman and trapper, tax exemption, exempt from military service, free border crossing between Canada and United States, and accident or health expense coverage.

The dream-catcher workshop was interesting because guests learned how to make a dream catcher. Though they look pretty hard and complex, dream catchers are easy once you understand the technique and what it takes to make them. The concept of a dream catcher is to filter dreams. Good dreams pass and slide down the feathers to the dreamer and bad dreams get caught in the web and disappear at the light of dawn. Although a simple concept, it seems to be used more as a decoration and an iconic symbol for Natives.

That day I learned more things about Cree culture than I anticipated. At the same time, it was mind-opening because there are so many important aspects about the Cree culture that I hadn’t fully understood until seeing some of the artifacts on display. It is important to keep that sense of culture alive, and the CICC does exactly that, as well as offering its services as a hostel and as a cafeteria for students.

It’s understandable that some Crees might think it’s nothing new what I’m talking about, however I believe it is important to know the significance of our everyday lives as Crees and to embrace our unique culture daily so as to not lose it through technological advancement. Keep the Cree spirit alive and surely everyone will continue to live the Cree way of life so it’s never forgotten.


Share Button

Comments are closed.