It’s an idea that came from the elders, a “build it and they will come” sort of notion. Over a year ago, the elders in Whapmagoostui met with the elders in Chisasibi to talk about coming together and sharing, as their ancestors used to do long before today’s modern communities were established.
Never underestimate the power of the elders, as from March 14-27, participants from the two communities will be coming together to share their traditional teachings and values at the second cultural exchange gathering to be held at Wawa Lake. Last year’s exchange held at Burton Lake was a great success with over 200 participants and they have high hopes for this year’s gathering as well.
Elizabeth Dick is the Cultural Director for Whapmagoostui and one of the organizers. “We go there to camp together, but more like sharing the teachings, knowledge and wisdom of our elders to the younger people,” she says. “The children are taught how to set a net on the lake in the winter time, and other stuff like the way our people used to live: the chores the children used to do like getting wood. But the things that are happening in the camp that children observe, they also learn that way too, by observing how people do things in the camp.”
The direction comes entirely from the elders, with the funding and the
Help to pull it off, coming from everyone: the schools, the trappers, the band councils and other entities. People are hired to get the wood and set up the camps.
Participants of all ages attend, from elders to high school students, with the goal of carrying on the traditions of the people and maintaining strong ties between the communities. But says Dick, “It’s also to visit the land where this generation has never been to before and it helps the people to heal together with the land and feel refreshed after the gathering where we share stories, legends and make new friends, reunite with old friends. It has to do with everything, mentally, physically, spiritually.”