About us...

Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute is a museum, archive, library and a teaching centre.

ACCI flows from the knowledge that Cree culture must be captured, maintained, shared, celebrated, and practiced or it will wither and die. Cree Elders have spoken of the need for a central place for the protection of the way, and have developed a vision for Aanischaaukamikw over several decades.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

ACCI welcomes Jordan Graham, our summer student.

I am truly thrilled to begin my Museum Technician position at Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute.  As I am still in my first week here, everywhere I turn there is something new- an artefact, a painting, a component of the architecture- that makes me appreciate, again, everything that ACCI represents, and all that the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee has accomplished, both in modern times, and times long past.


Before working here I have been involved in the field of Canadian Heritage through my positions as a Cultural Resource Management Archaeologist in Southern Ontario, and as the Collections Manager for The Battle Harbour Historic Trust in Labrador.  In 2012, I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from McGill University, and I am currently in the process of completing a Master’s degree in Archaeology at The University of Oxford. 

To be a part of this project is an honour, and I very much look forward to working with the collections, the museum staff, and the wider community of Oujé-Bougoumou over the course of this summer.

ACCI participates at the Association of Canadian Archivists Annual Conference

Every year the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) holds a fantastic conference somewhere in Canada.  This year the conference theme was Archivatopia and it was held in Victoria, at the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel.

I have been a member of ACA since I was a grad student and I have love participating in conferences – my first was in Toronto in 2009 where I was on the host committee and a poster presenter.  This year I was happy to be able to bring Lisa Petawabano along to the conference to present on one of ACCI’s projects.

Before the conference officially started, Lisa and I participated in the Aboriginal Special Interest Section annual meeting where we discussed activities of the group, and possible changes to the Aboriginal Archives Guide.  The guide was published in 2007 and a great deal has changed in the Aboriginal Archives world since then.  Possible changes discussed include adding a section about the TRC documents and oral testimony statement gathering that has been done across Canada, discussing policy and procedures and research policies.

To celebrate the start of the conference we were invited to an opening gala at BC Government House.  The view was exceptional and so was the company.  It was great to meet with archivists from all over the world and to catch up with friends.


 
Thursday was the first day of the conference.  In the morning we listened to two presentations from B.C, including one from our former YCW student Nailisa Tanner.

Our session title was Making and Evaluating Community Connections: Tools and Techniques. Our paper presentation was called Eeyou Istchee Network – Working Towards our Ideal Community Network.  We discussed our MAP funded project to connect all the community museum and archive collections with MINISIS (collections database system) and what steps had already been taken, including trips to each of the communities and conservation workshops.  Lisa and I spoke for 20 minutes, with our presentation slides containing exclusively pictures from ACCI and around Eeyou Istchee.  Our fellow panellist, Sarah Janes, from the Thunder Bay Archives spoke about her outreach projects and stats that she has been working on.  It was a great panel and we had about 50 people in our audience.  We were asked some great questions and we enjoyed the chance getting to share our experience with fellow archivists.


On Saturday I presented again with Canadian and American archivists. The session title was Looking Toward the Future: Aboriginal Archives in Canada and the United States and it was organised by Jennifer O’Neal from the University of Oregon.  Also on the panel was Jonathan Pringle from Northern Arizona University, Lim Lawson from the University of British Columbia Xwi7xwa Library, Sherry Lawson from Chippewas of Rama First Nation and Patricia Kennedy formally of Library and Archives Canada. The panel discussed the Aboriginal Archives Guide published by that ACA and the Protocols for Native American Materials that was published in the USA in 2006.  Standing up and speaking beside such an impressive crowd was a bit intimidating, and I was quite nervous.  We each presented on different topics, some of us giving our experiences using or creating guides, while others discussed the state of their community archives.  Each person had a unique view of the Guide and Protocols and it was great to hear about what other members of the aboriginal archival community were working on.  One of the greatest points came from Kim Lawson when she was describing the Aboriginal Archives Guide the night before the conference.  She spoke of how the Aboriginal Archive Guide should act like a bridge, connecting aboriginal communities to the archive community.  Aboriginal communities may choose to take some of the ideas in the guidebook, but not everything will work for each community.  Being flexible is very important, notably when working with communities who all have different mandates and resources.


The conference finished on a great note – the closing dinner and dance gala.  We had a great time talking (and dancing) with the people that we had met during the week.  The conference may be over but the work has just started.  Taking the ideas that were shared and discussed by our archival colleagues, continuing to improve our professional learning and updating resources for the next year will be more than enough to keep me busy over the next year.

For other conference posts about Aboriginal Archives please check out:


Aanischaaukamikw Library News

ACCI’s Library and Archives is happy to report that our new reference section is now open in the Library.  Our reference section holds Cree magazines, newsletters from different communities, annual reports from Cree entities and environmental reports. 


We are happy to help you with your research questions and remember that the library is open Tuesday to Saturday during the summer (8:30-12 and 13-16:30).



Monday, June 16, 2014

Pow Wow Week 2


                  If one thought that our first week of the Powwow workshop here at ACCI was well attended, then our second week exceeded all expectations.  The second week targeted youth and adults who wanted to learn about dancing, making regalia, and to generally learn about what Powwows are and general conduct while attending. 
                  We started off the week by having a showcase of our two wonderful dancers, Gabriel Whiteduck and Paula Menarick.  The excitement level was already high, however after the introductory performance; the focus on learning from Ouje-Bougoumou’s youth was way beyond anyone’s imagination. After the initial excitement of the dancing, the youth spent the rest of the day learning about Powwow etiquette and about the regalia worn during a Powwow. 
                  The following day saw the youth learn various dance steps and practice through games and role playing.  Laughter filled the Billy Diamond Hall and the youth were totally engaged.  If we were able to teach for 24 hours a day, there is no doubt that they would have stayed that long.   They soon learned how to put together parts of regalia, patterns were being shared and beads were being placed on slippers and decorative pieces. 
                  One suggestion came out that changed the entire course of the week, “can we learn how to sing and drum?”  With that one of our participants went home and brought back his drum.  The level of interest in this area from the ones who had a difficult time expressing themselves through dance, really started to shine.  They were able to learn a few songs, and started to understand the beats and rhythm of the songs so that the dancers would be able to dance.  For many this part was a highlight of the week.  As the week went on, the youth were continually asking for the drum.
                  There was so much chatter among the youth that the following two days saw our attendance double.  There were close to 40 people here, all enthusiastic about dancing, sewing and drumming. In fact, there were so many people, that it was almost impossible to stretch and do our pre dancing warm ups in the Chief Billy Diamond Hall. However, when there is a will there is a way. 

                  We were so incredibly pleased to host this workshop, and we hope that the youth were able to take away enough information dancing and regalia making, that they are able to practice on their own in the coming months and work on their regalia to be ready for the 4th annual Ouje-Bougoumou Powwow.






Friday, June 13, 2014

Adelyna Sara Snow’s Walking Out Ceremony

Adelyna Sara Snow’s Walking Out Ceremony

The walking out ceremony is a Cree tradition that has been done for children for hundreds of years. When a child was born, they were not allowed to touch the ground until they went through this ceremony. The parents took great care of keeping them off the ground. The ceremony can be done for a child or many children at the same time. Once the child is of age to walk or is close to the age of walking the ceremony is done for them during the spring. The child is dressed in traditional clothing of his or her gender and given miniature tools that each gender would use as a woman or man out in their hunting grounds. They are also being introduced to the land and their roles they will do in the future as their ancestors have done before them. The child is walked around the front of the lodge, teepee or shaptuaan. As they walk around they demonstrate a role they would do, for example the women display gathering wood or the men hunting. They re-enter the lodge and bring gifts to the elder that the child carries in his bag. Then the child is greeted by everyone with hugs and kisses. The ceremony is followed by a feast to honour the child/children. It is a beautiful and heart felt ceremony.


Albert St-Pierre and Sabrina Bouchard asked me to make them a walking out ceremony outfit for their daughter Adelyna. She would be having her ceremony at the end of May. At first, I was hesitant to accept because I had already had a long list of sewing orders from many other people. I accepted their request because there was something very special about Adelyna. I just felt I had to make it for her.
I asked Sabrina what kind of outfit she wanted me to make. She did not have anything specific in mind but trusted me as an artist to make something beautiful for her daughter. Since October 2013 I have been working at the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute as an education consultant. Over this time I have had time to do some research on traditional James Bay Cree clothing dating from 1600-1800’s. I offered to make an 1800’s style outfit the women would wear on special ceremonies, including the beaded hood, separate sleeves, hide dress and leggings. She agreed with this style but absolutely insisted on having the colour purple in it. No problem! As I have learned through anthropological papers and the Elders of Eeyou Istchee, each of these traditional clothing pieces has deep significance. For example, the women’s leggings had a side flap, embellished with beadwork or ribbon work. The pattern has a story of origin. Long ago the women’s leggings were cut out with a curve at the bottom and the men’s were cut out into a point. The point of the legging represents the hoof of a caribou. This design was to please and help ‘Pikuutskaw’, the Woman of the Land’, and the spiritual caretaker of all animals and the hunt. The cut of the leggings helped her differentiate from woman to hunter. If Pikuutskaw saw the point of the male leggings she would send game to the hunter so he could bring food to feed his family. With what I have learned I was careful to stay close to the traditional patterns and honour their symbolic meaning.

The first step was to get the measurements right and make the pattern. I used an old newspaper left in the museum. Adelyna didn’t cry or fuss as I wrapped the paper around her legs, body and arms. As I was measuring her, in the blink of an eye I could see the whole outfit and how to design it. Right then I knew it would turn out great and everything would fall into place. Although I had already drawn up some floral designs, there was one pattern that spoke to me. It was a floral design representing a purple flower that grows along the James Bay coast near my community of Chisasibi. This beautiful flower reminded me of Adelyna’s sweet humor and softness. I also wanted to do something with birds so I put in a hummingbird because her family comes from the south. Hues of purples and pinks raced my mind. I tried to explain to Sabrina the designs and motifs I drew out of the paper. She must have thought I had gone a bit crazy as I tried to convince her how beautiful the outfit would be! She put her trust in me and we went our separate ways.

For a month straight I sowed. There were many long hours of beadwork - early mornings and late nights. Throughout the project I always referred to the pictures of traditional Cree clothing and did my best to stick to the traditional patterns. I felt so inspired. People have asked me if I ever got tired of working on it. Never! Not even once! I cherish all my work that I create and make it as beautiful as I can. I do these things as though I am making it for myself. It was so precious and sweet. Whenever I finished a piece I would show Adelyna’s parents. They loved it as much as I did.
In the late night before the ceremony I had finally finished the outfit! I barely sleep. We were all excited for the ceremony. The following morning we were blessed with a beautiful sunrise and nice weather. Adelyna did not cry of fuss as she was dressed in her outfit. She was glowing with beauty! She shared her walking out with three other children. When it came her turn to walk out the shaptuaan escorted by her parents, she was smiling. Her first steps on Mother Earth. She was smiling and giggling and making cute faces to the familiar faces in the crowd. She watched closely as her father showed her the woman’s traditional role of gathering wood and picking bows for the lodge. As he finished she smiled and started baby talking to the crowd! It was beautiful to see. Adelyna had a wonderful day! She was so happy to walk freely on Mother Earth. She had truly given me a great honour of making her outfit and sharing her walking out ceremony with the community of Ouje-Bougoumou and myself.

I believe this traditional outfit has opened a doorway to the past of our ancestors. I have heard of beaded hoods being brought back in my community of Chisasibi and Whapmagoostui and used in traditional ceremonies. There is also a full woman’s 1800’s style outfit from the late Mina Tapiatic in Chisasibi. She remembered the woman’s outfit through stories her grandmother had told her. She instructed her daughter to make one for her and wore the outfit during special events or ceremonies. Today the outfit is with her daughter Lily Tapiatic. I have visited many Elders in Chisasibi who have guided me in my sewing and traditional knowledge. I might be the first person to bring back the woman’s outfit in a miniature size for a walking out ceremony. It represents our history and acknowledges the women of Eeyou Istchee.



Walking Out ceremonies are fun to watch and it is sweet to see young children dressed up and being made to play out adult roles. But our Elders tell us that there is a serious side to the ceremony. The spectators are not just there to take pictures of cute children and enjoy a delicious feast. Being invited to the ceremony and witnessing children take their first steps on Mother Earth means you are being asked to play a positive role and be a good influence in their lives. It’s a lot like the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Everyone plays an important part in helping the next generation grow up well and become responsible adults.