“Never forget your tradition, your culture, and who you are.”
Oji-Cree Elder conveying a message to youth

This month, our acting ED Judy Finlay and co-chair Landon Pearson officially launched their book, Tibacimowin: Gathering of Stories.

Here are a few words about the book's genesis:

In the autumn of 2008, Judy and Landon flew to seven of our First Nations communities to ‘gather’ the stories of the Oji-Cree Elders and relay them to First Nations youth. This was an inspired request of the Chiefs involved -- in K.I., Sandy Lake, Fort Severn, Mishkeegogamang, Eabametoong, Nibinamik and Weagamow.

“I try to talk to my grandson in Oji-Cree, he says ‘Mom, what’s Grandpa talking about, what’s he saying?’”

Working through an interpreter, Landon and Judy questioned the Elders about their memories of childhood – many of them had been born in the bush; some had been snatched up by government officials and sent to residential schools, while others were hidden or rescued by their families.

Their memories of these experiences in the 1930s and ‘40s are equal parts joyous and sorrowing, humorous and wise.

“Just before Christmas we used to draw Christ, and then one time I coloured Christ into a red man and that shocked them… that’s probably why the majority of people think ‘if you wanna go to heaven, you gotta be a white person.’”

Landon and Judy asked the Elders what messages they wanted to convey to their grandchildren. For the Elders witness their young people struggle with substance abuse, suicide, early parenthood and other vast challenges, and yearn to advise them.

The pair brought these translated messages and memories to the youth in Thunder Bay, and their responses and musings form the second part of the book. If you would like a copy for your school or community, please let us know.

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