Though he might not be a household name in Eeyou Istchee yet, the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute was proud to announce appointment of Stephen Inglis as its new executive director.

The board of directors of the future museum and cultural centre is feeling confident with the selection of Inglis because of his lengthy and distinguished career with museums. Not only has he worked with various Native groups in Canada to create museum collections, Inglis has also curated numerous major exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Though a recent member of the team, Inglis is thrilled to be a part of the innovative and versatile project that will serve the nine Cree communities from its home base in Oujé-Bougoumou. The institute is slated to open in Fall 2011 and will offer a wide range of cultural services and research.

“One of the interesting things about the project is that we will collaborate with the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association and with the Cree Trappers Association, the Cree School Board and the Cree Native Arts and Crafts Association, along with other entities to make a cultural focus in Oujé-Bougoumou,” said Inglis.

According to Inglis, talks are currently underway to see what kind of involvement the other entities will have with the cultural institute to acquire traditional knowledge and craft items, that could be sold in the institute’s gift shop.

For Inglis, the institute will provide a necessary service. Not only will it be a learning tool for Crees to understand their ancestry, the institute could breathe some new life into the James Bay tourism industry. People visiting outfitting camps or on business will be able to learn more about the Crees, their traditions and way of life.

“I think the centre could introduce them to the region and to the people. Someone who is out in the bush for a few days with a Cree guide, could learn something about the history of the Cree and their settlement of the area and the way they have traditionally worked with the land,” said Inglis.

Inglis was quick to point out that he will be handling the technical end of the museum and is only there to help structure the collections and their content. What will be on display and the various services offered by the institute will be decided by the Crees on the Board of Directors and the communities.

Inglis was able to give a preview of some of the exhibition plans. Due to the many archeological digs that have been undertaken in Eeyou Istchee over the years, the finds of those excavations will play a role in the exhibits. Though these artifacts are rare due to their organic nature, what was salvageable will be on display for the world to see.

“The items are mostly the remains of hunting camps such as tools and there are some interesting kinds of evidence of trading in the early period such as material that came from camps and trading posts,” said Inglis.

Efforts are also underway to acquire historical materials that were collected by early European explorers and traders that are in museums in Canada and abroad. These items would be on loan from the institutions that currently possess them.

Cree craftsmanship is another area that the institute is looking to highlight, since this tradition still resonates today within the communities

“Contemporary items will function in two ways – as museum artifacts to display the continuing handiwork of the Cree and as souvenirs that people can actually acquire,” said Inglis.

Though much of the content is still being developed, modern Cree history could also play a role at the museum and could include items, such as the pens used to sign famous treaties. There’s also talk about a live element that could include storytelling and online content for those who are looking to learn about the Cree.

“Our role is to represent all the communities and to provide a forum where people can learn about them. Each community has a particular region and a particular history and we could focus on each one with special exhibits,” said Inglis.