WINNIPEG, MB – In 1993, the remains of a 25-year-old Cree woman who lived 350 years ago were discovered by two residents of South Indian Lake in northern Manitoba. The story of this ancestor as told through the archaeological research inspired renowned storyteller William Dumas to reimagine a week in her life at the age of twelve in the award-winning picture book, Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow, published in 2013. Now, a project to extend the reclamation of Asiniskow Ithiiniwak (Rocky Cree) language, history, and culture has been awarded a Partnership Grant in the amount of $2.5 million by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
Entitled Six Seasons of the Asiniskow Ithiniwak: Reclamation, Regeneration, and Reconciliation, the seven-year project will be housed at the University of Winnipeg and directed by Dr. Mavis Reimer.
“A SSHRC Partnership Grant represents one of the highest academic awards for research and Dr. Reimer and her team have created a project that will have a lasting impact,” said Dr. Jino Distasio, Vice-President, Research and Innovation. “This project embodies the true spirit of partnership and the importance of community remains at the heart of what will certainly be inspiring.”
Dumas returns to recreate the remaining stories along with a number of research teams. In addition to Dumas and Reimer, these teams are led by Kevin Brownlee of The Manitoba Museum, Dr. Scott Hamilton of Lakehead University, Dr. Warren Cariou of the University of Manitoba, Dr. Myra Sitchon of Manitoba Indigenous and Northern Relations, and Dr. Doris Wolf, Dr. Roland Bohr, and Dr. Linda DeRiviere, all from the University of Winnipeg.
Rocky Cree knowledge keepers and partnering communities will work alongside researchers in archaeology, Cree language, education, program evaluation, history, story creation, digital media, and policy development to guide the research journey and to ensure that the knowledge produced through the project supports the regeneration of Asiniskow Ithiniwak identity, particularly among young people. Findings will be transformed into a series of historical-fiction picture books reflecting peoples’ movements and activities over the six seasons of the Asiniskow Ithiniwak and remediated as digital apps, a platform designed to allow readers to interact with the stories.
The project focuses on the development of historical narratives, but it aims to make visible the living history, memory, and culture of a contemporary Cree nation. “The project is founded on the revelation of an ancestor, but it is oriented to the future and the ongoing work of reclaiming Rocky Cree languages, histories, and knowledge,” says Reimer. “We plan to share our work on multiple platforms and at multiple sites with multiple audiences. Our first audience is young people, particularly First Nations young people, but we also want to reach teachers, scholars, policymakers, and the general public. We see our project as research for reconciliation.”
In addition to SSHRC funding, the project is supported by Indigenous community groups, First Nation and provincial government groups, non-profit organizations, industry, and educational organizations. Partners with the project include O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation; Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Family and Community Wellness Centre; the Asiniskow Ithiniwak Mamawiwin; the Historic Resources Branch of Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage; the Indigenous Affairs Secretariat of the Manitoba Department of Indigenous and Northern Relations; the Indigenous Inclusion Directorate of the Manitoba Department of Education and Training; Lakehead University; Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre; The Manitoba Museum; and Portage & Main Press.
Dumas observes, “Indigenous peoples and Canadians are becoming unified by heading towards reconciliation. But before this beautiful dream can happen, we have to explore our past, not through a lens filled with anger and blame, but in a good way.”
To learn more about the first app being developed for the project, please visit Storybook App for Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow.
The University of Winnipeg gratefully acknowledges the funding we receive from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund in aid of our research infrastructure. Every year, the federal government invests in research excellence in the areas of health sciences, engineering, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities through its three granting agencies. The Research Support Fund reinforces this research investment by helping institutions ensure that their federally funded research projects are conducted in world-class facilities with the best equipment and administrative support available. Please visit our RSF webpage at http://uwinnipeg.ca/research/research-support-fund.html”