One of the most important ways for we First Nation people to keep our culture strong is through the preservation of our traditions, language and history. The culture and traditions in my home of Attawapiskat on the James Bay coast is passed down from generation to generation by our Elders. Our parents and older relations also reinforce the knowledge and teachings we learn as children and young adults. This way of learning and passing down knowledge relies a lot on close relationships with one another, which was easier when my people lived a traditional lifestyle on the land. There were fewer distractions and there was a more natural and slower pace of life.
Now that my people spend more time in a modern community it is difficult for our Elders and our older family members to pass down the traditional knowledge. In a world where there is a faster pace of life we have to find other ways to preserve and keep our language and culture vibrant and strong.
Fortunately, there is an organization that has been actively working to help preserve First Nation heritage. The Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre was created as part of a new awareness in the 1970s to do something to preserve the First Nation culture in the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN) area in Northern Ontario.
Since the Centre was first established in 1975, the organization has worked on numerous projects with the goal of helping our people retain and maintain our culture, language and traditions. The Centre has done this by initiating numerous projects and programs that have created several books and publications about the First Nation people in the NAN area. In addition, the organization’s resource library has collected over 6,000 titles on First Nation history, culture, education, arts, crafts and language; close to 200 videos pertaining to the Native peoples of North America, a reference section and other sources of information on First Nation issues.
Some of the most important work the Cultural Centre has done in the past and continues to do today is recording the teachings and stories of our Elders and making this knowledge available for everyone. The Cultural Centre’s language department has a collection of these recordings, many which feature Elders who have now passed away.
This great collection of information has been a valuable resource for my people. In addition, the Cultural Centre has also received requests by individuals from other parts of the world to access materials the organization has collected over the years.
Recently, the Cultural Centre has taken another step in its development to make this wealth of information more available. The organization developed a new website on the Internet to promote its services and programs. The greatest feature of this new website is an online catalogue of all the resources available at the Cultural Centre. The catalogue is user friendly and is actually a searchable database for all of the Centre’s Library materials. Anyone can search the online catalogue and with a library membership you can borrow these resources from the Centre.
The new website and state of the art online catalogue on the Cultural Centre’s library resources will be a great service for First Nation remote and isolated communities in the NAN area and other parts of the country that want to learn more about their history. The new website also features more information on the Cultural Centre and its history, the organization’s programs and services and the First Nation NAN communities it serves. The new website can be accessed at (www.occc.ca).
Congratulations to everyone at the Centre for keeping up with technology and taking another firm step to preserve and promote our First Nation culture and traditions.