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Rocky Cree Elders Gather at Paint Lake

On July 13th – 15th 2015, MFNERC hosted a gathering for Rocky Cree Elders on the land at beautiful Paint Lake MB. The Rocky Cree people are from northern Manitoba and their territory is Churchill River, which is known by its traditional name as Missinippi. Their communities are Nelson House, South Indian Lake, Grandville Lake, Brochet, Lyn-Lake, and Pukatawagan.

One of the intended outcomes from the gathering is to eventually develop a history book for students at the junior high and high school levels, and for academic use. William Dumas, First Nations Language & Culture Facilitator in the Cree language, was one of the organizers of the gathering. He commented that there are less fluent Cree speakers, and those who are fluent are getting older. It is becoming more important to document and store the language, stories and oral history of the Rocky Cree. The gathering sought to do this by documenting the language, history, concepts, and holistic way of life of the Rocky Cree people, directly from the knowledge keepers.

It is also hoped that youth with use the archived information and developed resources to know where they come from. If their foundation is solid, they can have a better future with a strong understanding of who they are.

Participant Kevin Brownlee, Curator of Archaeology at the Manitoba Museum, who was part of the original 2011 working group for the Rocky Cree Project says, “If you lose that oral history, you can never dig it up. Doing archeology is never going to excavate that past.”

Many of the participants and organizers camped together onsite at Paint Lake, surrounded by spruce trees, and loons calling from the nearby water. Entertainer Winston Wuttunee was one of the participants and he provided songs and drumming early in the morning and into the evenings. The group was well-fed from the wonderful cooking by Margaret Dumas and her daughter Destiny (as well as help from various grandchildren).

Many participants said they felt reinvigorated from the discussions and landscape, and hoped that a follow up session will take place in the future. Many thanks to organizers William Dumas and Ralph Arthurson from the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre for hosting a truly unique event.


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