Community, school celebrate new culture centre

The community and school marked the opening of a new cultural learning facility at Willie J. Happyjack Memorial School in Waswanipi on September 24, 2019.

"Bring the bush to the school for the Cree Culture"  is Phase 2 of the action plan for Waswanipi Schools. In 2017, they built two Cree culture buildings at Joy Ottereyes Rainbow Memorial (elementary) School. 

We want our school to be a welcoming place of learning.

"Many of our students don't have a real chance to go to the bush for multiples reasons. Now, we give them that chance to learn authentically and maintain their Cree culture, values and traditions. As school administrators, want all the Cree culture classes to take place in these buildings," said Robert Laperle, vice-principal of Rainbow Elementary School and collaborator on the project.

Waswanipi Culture Centre Inauguration 1

The new facility features three buildings - a cookhouse, a cabin, and a sabtuan -  so that students of all levels (pre-school, elementary, high school) will be interested, he added.

"We want to bring the elders back to the school environment to share knowledge, storytelling, to be part of the student's life.  We want to change the image of the school as a feared 'rigid institution' into the school as a welcoming 'place of learning," Laperle said.

While the project was a major collaboration, it originated when a Cree culture teacher, Flora Otter, approached administration several years ago to say how difficult it was to teach Cree culture in a classroom, rather than the bush.


Funding was made available through the Deputy Director General of Operations and New Paths for Education, and construction began in August of 2019. The building was created mostly during the evenings by steadfast volunteers. 

Waswanipi Culture Centre Inauguration Sarah Pash Post smIn attendance at the inauguration was CSB Chairperson Sarah Pash, CSB Waswanipi Commissioner Emily Mianscum, Waswanipi Chief and Deputy Chief and each member of Council, Elders, all school staff members, students, and education partners. 

Pash praised the support the community has given to Waswanipi's schools on these cultural projects. 

"I am sure the students and teachers will have amazing experiences to authentically learn about culture, traditional skills, and language in their new sabtuan," she said in a post on social media following the inauguration.

The team prepared the food: walleye bites, moose meat brochette, hog pate (terrine de sanglier) on crackers, smoked salmon cream cheese bagel with onion and capers, bannock, donuts, boudin, baboo soup (moose meat and rice), snook-a-jam, dark chocolate and a glass of fake wine (sparkling pear/raspberry juice pear).

We want our school to be a welcoming place of learning.

Cree School Board

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