The Cree Nation of Chisasibi held their traditional 16th Annual gathering at Fort George Island from July 28 to August 2. The island, located about 10 kilometres from the mainland, is the traditional home of the Chisasibi Crees, a place where the Cree Eeyouch have lived and fished since time immemorial.
Around the late 1800s the Hudson’s Bay Company established their trading post in Fort George. This is where the Cree would all come together for the summer months upon returning from their hunting grounds to bring their furs to the company post. Thus every summer around August the Cree return to the island to remember what life was like in the good old days when the Cree lived entirely off the land. This is a time to relieve stresses of daily life and the urban work force.
The gathering began with Manjow Day, when all the tents were set up. The feast-sharing was operating constantly for all to eat whenever they were hungry, all the traditional foods in the Cree menu were served. The goose tasted great as did the fish mixed with blueberries. Everyone was able to get a free ride on the love boat to and from the island on the first day. Close to 3,000 Cree and non-native people showed up.
The fiddle dancing began the evening of July 29, and it was great to watch elderly couples show their dancing skills and the many years of joy and happiness that they shared were there for young people to see. There was a joyful spirit in the air. And a hot spot was selected every night and prizes were drawn in the big tent.
“Maamowedow was a real success,” says Delores Wasipabino from the Cree Health Board. “Not only by the participation from the public, but simply for the good times, for the enjoyment of being at the camp, for the memories. For the connection with all present on the beautiful island of Fort George. The weather was always beautiful throughout the weekend. There were many highlights that could be mentioned, such as: the Mr. and Mrs. Maamoweedow award that went to Harry and Connie Bearskin, who also celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary. There were the northern lights flashing on Fort George River. There was also a newborn baby named Maamowedow.”
Gordon Neahacappo, an employee of Human Resources said: “It’s always good to come back to the Island and to dance to the break of dawn, the children seem to enjoy it too very much. It’s nice to come back and remember how life was like back then. The bushes used to move even when there’s a calm wind in the early morning hours.”
There were so many games played by all participants. Too many to mention here. The children were constantly having fun, everyone enjoyed watching the adults play the water carrying-blind-folded game, people were bumping into each other, water was everywhere. Another fun game was the pudding-eating contest, which had everyone laughing – you either ate it or wore it.
The Maamowedow Committee would like to thank Northern Stores and Makivik Corporation for their special contributions and a special thank-you goes to Public Safety Personnel for their quick and efficient response to several minor incidents. John E. Sam’s hard work also helped turn Maamowedow into a very special event.
A loon flying over Fort George Island raised not only everyone’s eyes but also the spirits in that moment that was shared by all. We will return again to Maamowedow at Fort George Island in August 2005.