On Monday, we finally had the opportunity to go to the Chisasibi Heritage and Cultural Centre which is conveniently located next to two of the daycares.
Before talking about the Centre, it’s important to acknowledge that the current location of Chisasibi is relatively new. Originally, it was located on the island of Fort George on the La Grande River. However, with the construction of dams in the mid 1970s as part of the James Bay Hydro-Electric Project, the community was forced to relocate to the river shore due to fears of flooding and erosion. This move resulted in a disturbance in the way the Cree lived and shifted many aspects of their lives. For instance, many were forced to leave behind homes that had been in their families for generations. As well, flooding caused by the dams resulted in the loss of hunting and burial grounds.
This is a model of the original town located on Fort George island. Some of the homes and even one church were relocated across the river to the current site. Many people have summer homes on the island and return every summer to celebrate a festival called Mamoweedow (‘Let’s go to the island’).
The opening of the Cultural Centre in 2011 served as a place in which to both collect and spread awareness of Cree culture and heritage.
The exhibits focused on recounting the history and culture of the Cree over the past several centuries. It showcases the construction of michuaps, canoes, traditional hunting tools, the making of clothing, and the significance of nature in Cree culture.
The Cultural Centre also focused on the more recent history of Chisasibi, such as the residential school system and the recent relocation of the community to its current site. Having lived in Chisasibi for the past two weeks, we appreciated learning more about the complex history of this community.