The Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre in Timmins, Ont., celebrated its 25th anniversary October 25, basking in the encouraging words of a host of dignitaries and old friends.

The event drew participants from all over the province. Highlights of the ceremonies included an official cake-cutting and guided walking tour.

The cultural centre services First Nations communities spread over a vast area of northern Ontario. It has developed a unique and comprehensive library and resource centre, and promotes First Nations cultures, traditions and languages.

Willie Wesley, a Kashechewan Elder, opened the festivities with a prayer and some comments about the centre in Cree and English.

Wesley is one of the original members of Grand Council Treaty #9, now known as the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation.

The event was MC’ed by Geordie Kakepetum, one of the centre’s board members, who is also executive director of Keewaytinook Okimakanak, a tribal council in northwestern Ontario.

NAN Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic praised the centre for its “vital role” in preserving First Nations cultures. “This celebration of 25 years

is proof that the Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre is valued

by the First Nations communities it serves and it is important that we continue to support it for generations to come,” said Kakegamic, who is also a board member of the centre.

Grand Chief Lawrence Martin, of the Mushkegowuk Council, also praised the centre’s “good work,” including its “incredible collection of First Nations material in books, videos, education matter and tapes.” Martin also thanked those who have contributed to its success.

Timmins Mayor Vic Power congratulated the cultural centre on 25 years of service and for contributing to the city.

Joining him with words of encouragement and praise was Reg Belair, Member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay. “We need to support this service and keep it strong,” said Belair.

Another speaker reflected back to the centre’s founding. “When I started with the centre 25 years ago, I had no idea that today I would be standing here and sharing this milestone in First Nations success with you,” said Diane Riopel, the centre’s executive director.

“I have made many friends over the years and witnessed the development of the centre in servicing First Nations people,” she said. Riopel also thanked those who joined the anniversary celebration.

Other speakers included Gilbert Whiteduck, president of the First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres, Amos Key, of Sweetgrass First Nation Languages Council, Viviane Gray, Aboriginal-arts coordinator at the Canada Council, and Denise Bolduc, Aboriginal-arts officer for the Ontario Arts Council.

Info on the centre: (705) 267-7911 or