Maamweedow, Chisasibi’s 17th annual traditional gathering on Fort George Island, was so successful this year it was extended beyond its original four days to a full week of singing, dancing, feasting and games.
“This was the best Maamweedow so far,” said Dolores Audet Washipabano, member of the Mamooweedow Committee. “There was lots of attendance this year. The gathering had to be extended from four nights to seven nights, Monday to Monday. The last square dance ended Monday morning.”
That’s some party. There have even been talks of adding a permanent structure to accommodate the growing number of revelers. But the community spirit is what really brings Maamweedow together.
The Sabtuan, two teepees connected, offered a smorgasbord of traditional meals. Attendees brought food to donate, and the committee had cooks in the tent whipping up meals, including a free breakfast for 300. “We wanted to capture the old ways of doing things, the spirit,” Audet explained.
The Elders had their own tent to teach traditional activities and offer free food as well. “The Elders did a rap attraction,” added Jimmy Sam. They imitated famous rap stars. It was lots of fun to watch. “I enjoyed the gathering thoroughly.”
Sam was born on the island and said, “It’s a very special place.”
There were so many games and events it is hard to list them all. From pillow fights, balloon busting, neck to neck, head on a bat, run to mommy, musical body, tug of war, cribbage and checkers tournaments, and fiddling and dancing.
A highlight of the gathering was Mr. and Mrs. Maamweedow, Larry and Emily Washipabano. Andrew Rupert’s Big Tent was also a success. A packed audience was entertained by the music of the late Bobby Visitor. The rendition was performed by the Fort George Rockers Band, as well as several singers and family members of the late Visitor.
Since time immemorial the Cree have lived on the land that is now Fort George. When the Hudson’s Bay established itself in the 1800s, people would come together from their hunting grounds and bring their furs in the summer months to trade. The gathering at the end of the summer hunting season was a time to get together in remembrance of sharing and to remember a traditional way of life when the land provided everything needed to thrive.
The Maamweedow Committee would like to thank all participants that make this gathering truly a community event. They include: the Elders Council, especially Paul Cash, who coordinated Elders’ teaching activities every day, along with a Tee-Pee where traditional food was served for free to any hungry stomach; Andrew Rupert who coordinated Friday evening activity at the Big Tent, which the committee called Andrew’s night’; Mary Chewanish and all helpers from Chisasibi who organized the crib and checkers tournaments; the Cree Health Board for organizing indoor games; Archie Moar, Fire Department, who initiated a Firefighters competition that was a very popular and interesting contest; Chee-Bee Construction who repeated the very popular bird house making; all volunteer Cooks who with their spirits and generosity cooked in the Sabtuan from morning to evening every day; Andrew and Flossie Rupert – Daniel and Betsy Snowboy – Moses and Nancy Snowboy and Mr. and Mrs. Mamooweedow, Larry and Emily Washipabano; the great photos provided by Jimmy Sam; and Dolores Audet-Washipabano for her energetic spirit and direction.
Last but certainly not least, the expectant loon that graces the event every year made its appearance. As the people rejoice in celebration let the loon remind us that Turtle Island exists in community and respect for what she offers us. Don’t forget the spirit and magic of Fort George that brings community events together.