Students from around Eeyou/Eenou Istchee gathered in Ouje-Bougoumou May 24 to honour one of the shapers of Cree education – the late Annie Whiskeychan.
Whiskeychan was a driving spirit behind Cree curriculum at the Cree School Board. She developed resources that are still used in classrooms – including written stories which document traditional Cree practices and life.
Each year, students gather in one of the nine communities in her honour to showcase and practice traditional cultural activities.
The celebration included races to prepare sigabon (geese) for open-fire cooking, competitions for goose-calling, and the opportunity for students to perfect their sling-shot technique.
“We were honoured to host Annie Whiskeychan Day this year for the Cree School Board,” said Waapihtiiwewan School Principal Michel Cloutier. “It’s just one more way we can incorporate Cree culture into our schools.”
Events took place at the cultural village. Students practiced beading with elders, made birch-bark designs using their teeth (which traditionally became templates for beadwork), and practiced their tee-pee and fire-building skills as well as their expertise in bannock-making. There was also a water-bucket relay and a baby-wrapping contest.
“One of the major benefits of Annie Whiskeychan Day is the chance to bring the school and community together,” Cloutier added.
The day’s activities also included open admission to the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute and a traditional feast and awards ceremony in the school gymnasium.