About us...

ACCI flows from the knowledge that Cree culture must be captured, maintained, shared, celebrated, and practiced. 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.

Feb 24, 2017

Preparing for Siikun in Eeyou Istchee

Preparing for Siikun in Eeyou Istchee

by Annie Bosum, with Elder Eva Bosum

 Spring in the bush offers many activities including the move to a new camp. I learned this from my uncle and aunt, George and Eva Bosum (Photo 1), who always demonstrated a love of the land as our ancestors did before them.  Like all of their generation (born in the late 1920s), the land is their soul–they live and breathe what the land provides, relying on the animals and forest for clothing, warmth and nutrition.  
(Photo 1 – George and Eva Bosum making snowshoes. Anna Bosum Photograph Collection.)

All year round, they were on the land, hunting and practicing traditional activities, demonstrating typical characteristics of what we call ‘Dab-Eenouch’, people who are competent in their knowledge of how to live off the land. My late uncle George knew his land like the back of his hand and knew the traditional Cree names of each lake and river.  When the mining companies began moving into the Chibougamau area in the 1950s, George and Eva were the last people to abandon their old shack at Dore Lake.  They did not relocate into the town of Chibougamau like the other Cree people, and searched instead for a suitable camp at Chibougamau Lake.  With the permission of the tallyman, the late Philip Shecapio Sr., they built a cabin to stay in for the summer months, returning to their hunting territory, North of Lake Opataca in late August or early September each year. 

In the summer months they set up fish nets and lived on fish around Chibougamau Lake.  In Autumn (Takwaachin), Winter (Pipun), and Spring (Siikun) they traveled to their hunting territory to hunt small game, bear and moose.  Together, with perfect skill and accurate knowledge, they worked continuously in quiet strength, preparing toboggans, snowshoes, moccasins and mittens, using only materials from the land. They traveled effortlessly as a team on foot, on snowshoes and with the canoe, delightfully in tune with nature and oneness with the woods.

One early Autumn, we flew by plane to our hunting territory. We temporarily camped in a small canvas tent, using spruce poles to hold it up, and with pine boughs as flooring.  I remember my uncle and aunt working tirelessly from dawn to late evening to build the aschiiukamikw:  a moss dwelling which would become our Fall/Winter dwelling, or sometimes a takwaachihtaaukamikw, which was made out of logs and moss.  This type of dwelling was built using black spruce trees stripped of their bark to make logs, and moss from the earth.  I remember it being small, but quite comfortable and warm.  A hole was first dug about 3-4 feet deep, underneath the soil was soft and easy to shovel.  The area where we lived was both marshy and dry, with an abundance of moss, black spruce, jack pine and white birch. 

When the time would come to move out of our takwaachihtaaukamikw, Uncle George would go ahead to locate the perfect spot for our siikunihtaaukamikw, a place closer to abundant water to hunt the migrating geese and ducks.  The kichiihchaaukimkw is a square lodge made with two or three split logs, cut from spruce trees, on each of the four sides, with canvas walls and a tarp secured with nails (Photo 2).

(Photo 2 – George, Eva and Harry Bosum at spring camp. Anna Bosum Photograph Collection.)
Next my Uncle would get his taatiyaakanaaskw toboggan to move the canoes to the siikunishiwin.  This type of toboggan is used to carry a 9 or 8 foot canvas canoe.  He waited until the snow and ice turned hard from Spring rains and cold nights. This type of snow is called uteyaau.  The dogs pulled the toboggan with the canoe, with my Uncle walking in front and my Aunt walking behind, carrying a wood pole to push the toboggan when needed (Photo 3).

(Photo 3 – Charlie and Louise Jimiken, 1970-1971, showing an example of a taatiyaakanaaskw and a taashipitaakin in the background. Photographer: Adrian Tanner.)
In the early morning, when the ice was hard, you could walk without snowshoes, wearing only kâ chinwâch maschisin (Photo 4).  My Aunt and Uncle left very early so they could return before the sun made the ice too slushy for travel.  At the new camp, the canoe was hung on a teshipitaakan. The taatiyaakanaaskw was left at the new camp, so the return journey used only a small sled, carrying snowshoes and other necessities. A few more trips with the dog sled moved everything needed to our new siikunishiwin.

(Photo 4 – ACCI 2012.09.115ab. From the Cree Action Collection.)





a moss dwelling
Fall/winter dwelling made of moss / logs
Square lodge with split logs
Wide, long toboggan for transporting a canoe
The surface of the snow freezes hard after it rains in winter
A raised platform  cache with four legs cut from trees and two logs placed parallel to each other
ᑳ ᒋᐧᓈᒡ ᒪᔅᒋᓯᓐ
kâ chinwâch maschisin
Tall moccasins with warm duffle linings
Place to spend Spring
Spring Dwelling

Jan 27, 2017

The Life of a Teacher in Eeyou Istchee: The Collection of Mary Mitchell by Sarah Small, Young Canada Works Intern

         In 2016 the Archives at Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute received a collection of photographs, teaching material, and memoirs collected and written by Mary Mitchell (Image 1).  As a young adult Mary was eager to make a difference in the lives of others, as well to make a life for herself so she studied to become a teacher and started her career in the mid-1950s.  Mary began teaching in southern Ontario, however the easy routine of classroom life in the urban environment prompted her to search for a new adventure in an exotic and remote location.  Mary realized this dream when she accepted a teaching position in Moosonee in 1958.  This decision encouraged Mary to continue teaching in Eeyou Istchee, which she did on and off until 1973.  
(Image 1: Mary Mitchell. Photographer: Unknown)

Mary Mitchell in Moosonee 1958-1959:

         Mary’s eagerness for a new challenge compelled her to send out applications to “places that [she] imagined to be very remote from Scarborough”, despite knowing nothing about them.  She soon received a call from the school in Moosonee for a position in a junior room (Grades 1-4).   After 24 hours of deliberations Mary accepted the position and set off for Moosonee (Image 2) by train.  The next year was a challenge for Mary but she soon settled into northern life.  After considering her career goals Mary resigned from her position in the spring of 1959 and went home to London, Ontario to begin new studies at the London Bible Institute. 
(Image 2: Moosonee Photos. Photographer: Mary Mitchell)

Mary Mitchell in Eastmain 1962-1969:

          Only three years later, Mary returned to the James Bay region in 1962, when she began teaching in Eastmain (Image 3).  After teaching in Eastmain for six years, Mary realized that the seventh would be her last and she left in June 1969 to realize her dream of completing a bachelor’s degree.
(Image 3: Eastmain Clinic and Band Office. Photographer: Mary Mitchell)

Mary Mitchell in Fort George (Chisasibi) 1972 – 1973:

          After completing an undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, Mary was once again called back to the north.  In the fall of 1972 Mary arrived in Fort George (Chisasibi) to begin another school year.  Mary only stayed in Fort George (Image 4) for one year, leaving in the spring of 1973 to take up a position as a classroom consultant in Thunder Bay for the following fall.  
(Image 3: Fort George Photos. Photographer: Mary Mitchell)

Mar 14, 2016

The trail of the Rabbit Fur Coat

One of the most exciting things that happened with our museum collection in the last few months was the amazing reunification of an object with the family of the maker.

In May 2015, ACCI hosted a Curatorial workshop lead by Moira McCaffrey, and one of the attendees was Linda Stewart Georgekish from Wemindji. At this time, she mentioned to us that her late mother Demaris Gilpin Stewart had made a rabbit fur coat ‘for a museum’ back in the 1980s and that she has been looking for it ever since! We informed her that we do have a few rabbit fur coats in our collection and that we would keep an eye out.

           A few months ago, Linda posted a photograph on Facebook of her nephew, Bernard Stewart, modelling the coat when he was a boy in 1980:

Bernard Stewart, 1980

Nov 4, 2015

A long way from home! - Young Samí Reindeer Herders visit Eeyou Istchee

“How on earth did you end up here in Ouje-Bougoumou, of all places?” I asked Niila Inga, one of the leaders of the 29 Samí youth delegation. The question had been on my mind all morning. Niila and I were sitting in the Elder’s Gathering Space, taking a bit of a rest during a very full afternoon visit at Aaanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute on October 7, 2015. Niila’s response - they were looking to connect with the people of Eeyou Istchee, in particular the youth – they had come looking for guidance and expertise because the Cree have been successful in negotiating a settlement for future generations.
This youth delegation, representing each Sápmi region in Sweden, travelled over 5,000 kilometres to come and meet the people of Eeyou Istchee, to share their culture and to learn from the people here. For over a year they researched the history of the Eastern James Bay Cree, contacted and coordinated with the governments of Waswanipi and Ouje-Bougoumou, and raised funds to cover the costs of their flight, transportation, food and lodging.

Niila and the rest of the youth delegation are not just ordinary young people from Sápmi, Sweden, they are reindeer herders. This youth delegation is but one of many young Samí trying to preserve and continue the Traditional ways of the Samí people, as young reindeer herders they are part of a long tradition in their territory.
We were honoured to have them visit us on Wednesday October 7, 2015, part of a two day visit in Ouje-Bougoumou. The delegation was greeted by Ron Simard, Ouje-Bougoumou Tourism Officer, in the Billy Diamond Hall.

The group enjoyed a guided tour of the Institute including our beautiful Exhibit Hall. Harold Bosum gave a Tamarack Decoy making demonstration that generated a lot of interest, questions and queries from the delegation. At the end of the demonstration Harold gifted the youth delegation with the decoy that he made during their visit.  


Lloyd Cheechoo presented gifts to the Samí youth on behalf of the Cree Native Arts and Crafts Association (CNACA).

Our young guests also had the opportunity to meet with one of the Cree Nation Government’s archaeologists, Dario Izaguirre, and learn about the role that archaelogy has played in Eeyou Istchee as evidence in Land Claims, and also try their hand at flint knapping. Dario is somewhat of an “artiste” in flint knapping fashioning of projectiles and arrow tips.

 The Samí (Lapp) people have inhabited the northern portions of Scandinavia, Finland and eastward over the Russian Kola Peninsula since ancient times. Archaeological finds suggest that the Samí people have lived in the Arctic region for thousands of years. Russia, Finland, Norway and Sweden claim territories ill what is now regarded as Sápmi (Lapland).
The Samí were originally nomads, living in tents during the summer and more sturdy peat huts during the colder seasons.The Samí based their livelihood mainly on hunting and fishing; they often bartered the products from such animals as reindeer, moose and beaver with a heavy reliance and connection between the humans and the animals on the land.   

The Samí today maintain their rich culture and long-established traditions, but are as much part of modern society as any other person in Sweden. They live in modern housing and only use tents as very temporary accommodations during reindeer migrations if they don’t already own cottages in the mountains and forests. http://samenland.nl/lap_sami_si.html

Add chttp://skandihome.com/skandiblog/uncategorized/sami-culture-customs/aption



Samí herders call their work boazovázzi, which translates as "reindeer walker," and that's exactly what herders once did, following the fast-paced animals on foot or wooden skis as they sought out the best grazing grounds over hundreds of miles of terrain. Times have changed. Herders are now assigned to specific parcels of the reindeer's traditional grazing territories at designated times of the year. To make the lifestyle workable, herders use all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles to maintain hundreds of miles of fences between territories and move large herds in accordance with land-use regulations. Today, only ten per cent of Swedish Samí earn a living from the reindeer industry, and many combine their family businesses with tourism, fishing, crafts and other trades. ttp://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/11/sami-reindeer-herders/benko-text 
On their final night in Ouje-Bougoumou the young Samí reindeer herders treated the community to an evening performance of traditional songs, presentations on cultural practices and traditional clothing, as well as a beautiful video of the land and the way of life of the Samí.

Gift presented to Elder Lawrence Shecapio on behalf of the Ouje-Bougoumou Cree Nation - Samí Evening Performance and Presentation- (Capissisit Lodge, Thursday October 8, 2015/ Photo credit: Kelly Pineault )
We were sad to say good-bye, but hope that this is the beginning of an ongoing dialogue and a lasting relationship between the people of Eeyou Istchee and the people of Sàpmi.

Until we meet again,

Kelly Pineault
Coordinator of Education






Sep 29, 2015

ACCI at IILF! (The 9th International Indigenous Librarians Forum 2015) by Annie Bosum, ACCI Librarian

I participated as a poster presenter at the 9th International Indigenous Librarians Forum held at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, August 4-7, 2015.  The delegates came from many places around the world: New Zealand, Australia, Vancouver, Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Ontario, to name a few.  

One of the buildings, University of Manitoba
DAY 1: Upon arrival, after a long journey from Ouje-Bougoumou, I was whisked away into the outskirts of Winnipeg, which was about an hour and half drive, to Turtle Lodge in the Sagkeeg First Nation village.  Elder David Courchene Jr., led the group in a ceremony involving teachings, songs, and drumming.  Later on we were invited to the welcome reception in the Marshall McLuhan Hall on the University of Manitoba campus. Among the speakers to welcome and entertain us were Mary-Jo Romaniuk, University of Manitoba Librarian; Deborah Young, Executive Leader of Indigenous Education and Dovie Thomason who did a reading from her book – as a writer myself, this was the highlight of the evening for me---a wonderful performance indeed!

Conference Emcee Carl Stone with local Elders
DAY 2:  Participants were invited to a Sunrise Ceremony on the grounds of the University of Manitoba.  Following breakfast; Carl Stone, the Emcee for the conference, welcomed and introduced the delegates and the Elders and engaged everyone in the Knowledge Keepers’ and Traditional Peoples’ Sharing Circle.  The keynote speaker during lunch was Ry Moran, Director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR).  

Me in front of my poster !

During the break we set up our Poster presentations: there was genuine interest in the poster that I had prepared; questions were asked about our adaptation of the Brian Deer Classification scheme and found the steps we took in implementing it very interesting. One of the participants suggested that we put our catalogue of the changes we made to the Brian Deer Classification scheme online for others to see. 

Conference Area where presentations took place

Other presenters/exhibitors were also present in the poster exhibition room: UBC Library; Pemmican Publications; Fernwood Publishing; Goodminds.com (Jeff Burnham);the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre and writer/author Larry Lovie, whom I bought a book from to add to the ACCI library, about Residential Schools.  Throughout the day there were many presenters from other libraries, museums, and resource centers.

The closing keynote speakers were Elders Dave Courchene Jr., Gary Robson and Florence Paynter. That evening we were given the option of dining out in the downtown area of Winnipeg with fellow conference participants.  I got an invitation from the team from UBC, it was a great, enjoyable meal…an evening that felt like I had met up with old friends!

Later on, we were separated into groups for a tour of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights that focused on traditional culture.  I enjoyed our lesson from the beaver and the turtle, and I got to see the huge Metis octopus bag! You can watch the video on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SodbjHdLvFo about the mounting of this bag- highly interesting!
Museum of Human Rights
Huge octopus bag on display

DAY 3:  Unfortunately, I missed Brian Deer when he joined the conference via Skype (due to illness he could not attend the IILF).  According to those who were able to attend, he was very humble, and mentioned that he was not comfortable taking copy-right ownership to the Brian Deer Classification Scheme.

In the late afternoon the conference shifted its focus toward the non-indigenous delegates where discussions evolved on the theme “How to be an Effective Ally”, led by Monique Woroniak.  A bus was scheduled to take the delegates to the First Folkorama pavilion which featured a Folkorama VIP Tour. 

DAY 4:  We took a bus to downtown Winnipeg to visit the Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Centre and the Peoples’ Library: http://www.mices.com. We were given a quick walk-through the two story building and visited the library, which holds approximately 10 000 books, periodicals, and audio visual material.  I was surprised by the large number of resources contained in a small space, they did mention that they had an extra archival area downstairs as well.

Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Centre and the Peoples' Library

We then took the bus to the University of Winnipeg where we were given a tour of their Archives; Brett Lougheed gave us a brief presentation about the Two-Spirited Collection.  
Tour of archives, University of Manitoba

We visited the Centre for Rupert Land Studies Collection with a presentation by Roland Bohr. As he spoke to us, I couldn’t help but notice all the interesting books in that tiny room!  I wished I was also able to do the tour to see the Library’s Indigenous Collection!  Our lunch was great - Veal stew and bannock.  The keynote speakers were Wab Kinew of the Indigenous Advisory Circle and Jacqueline Romanow, Chair of Indigenous Studies, who gave welcoming addresses as well as informative presentations about the University of Winnipeg and their student body.  After lunch we walked to the Millennium Library to visit the Children’s resource area.  I really liked the animal prints on the floor, the ceiling panels of the sky and trees and the artwork done by children who were asked to express their visions of “community”!

Millennium Library

Detail of decor in Millennium Library

Children's Area in Millennium Library

Decor in Millennium Library

We returned to the University of Manitoba around 3 o’clock, and were asked to divide in two concurrent session groups with indigenous delegates in one and the other with the non-native delegates.  It was interesting to hear the indigenous point of view and closing remarks and to watch the delegates take part in the smudging and the passing around of the ‘grandfather stone’. 

The most important thing that stuck in my mind is hearing the Elders remind us how not to just think of ourselves as librarians but as knowledge and wisdom keepers and to view ourselves as the gate keepers of language and culture! What beautiful words spoken by a man of genuine wisdom!

That evening we had the gala dinner and closing ceremonies.  Delegates were presented with gifts for their presentations and a proposal for the 10th IILF was set to take place in New Zealand next year-I hope I can attend! 

An Ojibway woman led the delegates into a fun sing-along-in Cree, it was interesting that I understood the language!  The entertainment ended with lively fiddle dancing, throat singing, singing by local indigenous and non-native musicians.  

What a fun, great conclusion to a well-organized conference!

Sep 21, 2015

ACCI Collections Staff on the Road

ACCI Collections Staff on the Road!

Written by Sharon Vance - Registrar

On July 1st2015, intrepid collections team members Laura Phillips and Sharon Vance set out for the Cree community of Waskaganish armed with Sharpies and Olfa knives.   

The Mission:
As part of a larger collaboration and training partnership with the Waskaganish Cultural Department, which is in the first stages of constructing their own community based cultural centre, ACCI offered to help with some temporary storage for the Waskaganish object and archival holdings until their new building is complete. We can also help with storage advice and collections related training, if required. 

Because we were transporting objects back to Ouje-Bougoumou, driving to Waskaganish was the only option. We chose to drive via Matagami on the James Bay Highway. 
At times the road was hard-going, but after long hours and very bumpy mileage we finally arrived, and were greeted by Stacy Bear, Cultural Coordinator for the Waskaganish Cultural Department.

 The challenge:
The current storage shed!

Currently being used as temporary storage, the shed was packed full of cardboard boxes, plastic crates and larger objects which had been moved from their initial storage location in the basement of the Band Office after the offices of the Waskaganish Cultural Institute were moved .  Quick thinking staff moved the boxes to the shed at the Waskaganish band utility area after damp conditions and mould had been detected, but unfortunately the shed posed its own problems.  To prevent the boxes from being damaged from water, staff had secured the boxes with plastic wrap to create a waterproof barrier. While this is not a highly recommended tactic because the plastic wrap can cause different problems, it was ok as a temporary fix until we could move them.

After talking to the cultural staff and conducting an initial survey, we decided it was best to sort the boxes into three categories and label them accordingly.  We were able to identify:

·         Archaeological objects from various digs in the region
·         Objects taken from the John Blackned House
·         Archival documents

Sorting the boxes into these three categories made it easier for us to organize the contents. It also helped us speed up our processing time.   We were mostly concerned with identifying potentially fragile contents, so by sorting the boxes we knew which object boxes to focus on. 

Our sorting would also come in handy when it was time to load our vehicles! We wanted to take the most fragile objects back in Laura’s car, and the rest were going in the back of a covered pickup truck.

Accompanied by two amazing helpers, Bertie and Mary Small, who had also been part of the original packing of the boxes and even worked on the excavations where some of the finds were from, we set up two processing stations: archival/books and 3D objects.   The archival/books station was relatively straight forward. Since the boxes were externally labeled with terms like ‘books’, ‘photos’, ’files’, we were able to assign them a box number and recorded these unopened boxes in a basic box list style of inventory before stacking them on pallets until our second vehicle arrived for packing.  

Unfortunately the boxes containing the 3D objects were not labeled as clearly as the archives and books, so most of these were opened so we could record the general nature of the contents.   Bertie brought out what seemed like an endless stream of boxes to my table, we stripped them of the plastic wrap and tape and then had a quick look inside.  I took photos of the box contents. The contents were summarized on the inventory form along with any special conditions we noticed, like the presence of insect casings!  Then we sealed, numbered and labeled each box.  Some were labeled FRAGILE while those belonging to the John Blackned House were given a special designation JBH.

Some boxes, such as a box of decorated bear skulls, were extremely fragile.  We decided to carefully wrap and re-pack each skull for the bumpy journey back to ACCI.

By the end of the day we catalogued and moved 97 boxes, as well as loose items such as maps, radios, and an antique pump organ.  It was time for us to take a break while we waited for our second vehicle to arrive.

With some extra help from Cree Nation Government archaeologists David Denton and Francis Marcoux, we loaded as many boxes as possible into our two vehicles for the journey back to ACCI.  We made note of which box went into which vehicle, so we could give Stacy a receipt for what we had taken and so we had a list to cross check upon entry back at ACCI. We were feeling pretty good about the (now) almost empty shed, even if we had to leave a few things behind for a return visit. ]

After saying goodbye to Stacy and our wonderful helpers, we said goodbye to Waskaganish and hit the bumpy road once more for Ouje-Bougoumou and ACCI.   

 This is just the beginning of the journey for these objects, so stay tuned for their ongoing adventure at our facility in Ouje-Bougoumou!  Right now they are in quarantine; most of the boxes are being frozen as a precaution because of the presence of bugs.

Stacy and her team will be joining us at ACCI in the coming months where we will collaborate to help them fully inventory, clean and re-house all of their objects for their trip home to the new Waskaganish Cultural facility. This collection will have catalogue records added to the Waskaganish community collections pages on the new Eeyou Istchee Community Collections online database, a project funded by Heritage Canada. This website and database resource will be available to the public by the end of 2015!!

For the registrars and collections managers, this is a list of the equipment we brought:
·         Bubble wrap
·         Plastic sheeting
·         Packing tape
·         Sharpies and pens
·         Olfa knives
·         Pre-printed inventory sheets
·         Oversized ziplock bags
·         Face masks
·         Nitrile gloves (various sizes)
·         Camera (personal)

This is what we wish we had of also brought:

·         Double the amount of everything we brought
·         ziplock bags of all sizes
·         empty bankers boxes & lids
·         Clipboards (it was windy!)
·         Collections camera
·         Sunscreen! (it was sunny!)
·         Garden/ work gloves (the pallets were splintery!)
·         Bottles of water
·         Packed lunch

Things that we used that were already in Waskaganish:
·         Collapsible tables
·         Wooden pallets
·         People!