The long-haired German tourist who cycled slowly into OJ with his bedrolls and bundles on Saturday June 7 must have wondered… this remote Cree community: why it’s busier than Berlin!
The annual goose festival was in full swing at the cultural village, including a walking out ceremony, games, a lot of geese swinging on strings and a beaver in a giant pot for the community feast later at the school.
Goose fest organizer extraordinaire Anna Bosum, who never seems to quit, had been jigging up a storm the night before with one of the Coonishish twins at the Youth Center. On Saturday she surfaced running a clothes pin contest with a lot of eager young guys determined to prove they had the fastest clothesline action. A few minutes later she was wrist deep in flour making bannock and she was later spotted at the sports complex helping one of the canteen workers wrestle a huge sack of pop cans out of a recycling bin. You name it, Anna was there doing it.
The walking out toddlers must have been up earliest that morning getting kitted out in their tiny trappers hats, buckskin jackets, wee teapots and other useful bush tools.
Indya Poison, Philip Neeposh, Donovan Dixon, Richard Dixon, Terrianne Coon and Steven Diamond walked out with the help of their proud supporters…while Thomas Coon explained the ceremony in English for the tourists.
Two hours later it was the turn of the 13 million dollar sports complex to “walk out.” with a full complement of local, regional and even national politicians, speeches, then a lunch and gift giving after.
AFN National Chief Matthew Coon Come, Grand Chief Ted Moses., former OJ Chief Jimmy Mianscum and current chief Sam Bosum as well as the Mayor of Chibougamau made speeches about youth and hockey and how OJ would one day send a player to the NHL or a swimmer to the Olympics.
Deputy Chief Kenny Mianscum was MC and he and his whole family were overcome with emotions many times during the ceremony.
The building has been named after their late father and grandfather, the Albert Mianscum Memorial Sports Complex.
OJ held an essay contest to find the name. Albert’s grandson Dion Mianscum, who is graduating as class valedictorian from the OJ high school this June, wrote the essay judged most eloquent and won the contest.
Emma Mianscum, Albert’s widow, cut the ribbon. Then all the Mianscums and the chiefs piled together for a giant photo op in front of the massive new building.
The building is clearly a big hit with everyone. It was designed by a firm of architects from Lac St Jean to fit into Douglas Cardinal’s overall vision. It is both soaring, spacious and tough enough to be kid-proof. The floors are stone, the walls are cement and there’s a lot of wood and light and high spaces. It gives the impression that no expense has been spared. Even the light fixtures are beautiful.
It doesn’t come cheap though. It took years to fund and build with a patchwork of Quebec and Cree money. Kenny Mianscum says they have been using it now since last November and estimate it will take about $500,000 a year to run.
People sit, eat, chat, people watch, roam around, hang out on the front terrace or the food court and all this even with no hockey going on.
The complex generates about 20 jobs including those in some private businesses that have set up shop there: the Darcy Ryan canteen (which makes a mean moose stew with all the trimmings), Emmuel Belanger’s sparkling bright gym and a sports equipment store.
When it’s not hockey season the big draw is the pool. Kids at the school say it’s their favorite thing about their community.
Kenny Mianscum says it attracted about 50 kids and 30 adults at first and the numbers have been growing constantly.
Ironically the Saturday of the official opening the arena was in a state of deliberate fantasy transformation thanks
to several desperately working people from Yellowknife and Montreal. Miles of black velvet cloth surrounded about half what would have been the ice surface, with a giant steel stage taking up a lot of the rest. It had become a concert venue with a northern lights backdrop…
The second of two CBC North True North concerts was set to go with about a half dozen CBC North technicians and PR people minding the sound, wrangling the performers and handing out tickets and T-shirts and other souvenirs.
True North chaos had started early in the week as the main stage refused to go up in the time allotted so the guy from Montreal had to stay an extra day. And that was just the beginning.
One CBC vehicle coming from the airport had a minor accident, a second got a speeding ticket. Then four performers, three from Waskaganish and the Innu singer Cyrille Fontaine, failed to show. But Waskaganish’s loss proved to be OJ’s gain because two locals, he well known Richard Bosum and 27 year old gospel singer Emily Bosum Diamond agreed to fill in at the last minute thereby ensuring themselves instant fame in the classic tradition one would hope. OJ’s musicians also included the popular Glen Poison so it was a real talent triumph for OJ.
The concerts rocked. Matthew Coon Come must have thought so. At the beginning of the AFN election campaign he came back to the concerts two nights running to dance up a storm to Matthew Mukash’s fiddle…while the youths hanging out at the arena entrance said their fave was the fist pumping political lyrics of Ceremony.
The OJ Minor Hockey Association and the local Women’s Ministries each took home a check for $1,000 from the gate each night of the packed concerts.
The concert will be on CBC radio and on Maamuitaau later on.
CBC North Montreal sent almost their entire radio and TV crews to Ouje-Bougoumou for several days in connection with the True North Concert…and say they had a great time even if their trucks didn’t.
They got five (count em!) flats and almost another one so they are waiting for that new $12 million access road and new tires from the CBC before they come back.