Aashuumiih translates from Cree to English as “pass it to me.” To the people of Waskaganish this means the transfer of traditional knowledge from one generation to the next. Stacy Bear, the Waskaganish Youth Chief, said these trips are open to ages 13-29 “but it’s mostly those aged 13-17 that participate.”

The Aashuumiih journeys started eight years ago. Only one year has been missed and that was the result of an early spring contributing to unsafe conditions. The average journey is about two weeks long. Participants left on February 16 and arrived in Waskaganish March 1. Each year has seen more youth joining the Aashuumiih experience.

Bear said this year was a first. “The number of female participants is growing. The first journey had no females at all, and this year there were more females than males,” she said.

The Nation asked Bear what she saw as the purpose of Aashuumiih. “The purpose of this project is to engage the youth of Waskaganish in the practice and pursuit of the traditional Cree way of life and to facilitate the transfer of traditional knowledge from one generation to the next,” Bear said. “Upon completion of the program, the participants will have been trained and equipped with Cree survival skills and possess an extended knowledge of our ancestral homeland.”

Did the journey achieve its goals? “I hope so,” she answered with a laugh.

The Cree Trappers Association first came up with the idea and concept of Aashuumiih. Later, the project was handed over to the youth council to run, said Bear.

“This was my first year putting this project together,” noted Bear. “I sought funding from organizations that I thought would be willing or had an interest in preserving the Cree traditional way of life, and the promotion of wellness.”

This year’s sponsors were the Waskaganish Youth Council, Niskamoon Corporation, Waskaganish Elders Council, Waskaganish Youth Department, and Waskaganish Wellness Society.

Bear told the Nation that she and the youth chiefs before her have been proud to be a part of Aashuumiih.

Waskaganish Chief Robert Weistche echoed her pride in thanking all of the Special General Assembly delegates for coming and honouring the youth who braved the stormy weather to go on this journey. “We are still practicing our way of life. We are still teaching our children that way of life. I thank the Creator for his many blessings and for the safe journey.” Weistche said, “Aashuumiih brings a lot of pride to family and friends of the Cree youth who go on this journey.”