Val-d’Or dinner nets a fortune for the Cree Cultural Institute

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An estimated $72,800 was donated to the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute (ACCI) during a fundraiser dinner June 13 in Val-d’Or. The funds will go towards community activities that support joint-partnerships between the Val-d’Or region and the Cree Nation.

The Secretariat of the Cree Nation Abititi-Témiscamingue Economic Alliance, the Val-d’Or Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) organized the event in conjunction with the ACCI.

Guests paid $150 for a five-course Indigenous meal created by Forestel Hotel chef Yves Moreau while award-winning singer-songwriter Melisa Pash performed for guests.

This is the first time an event like this has been held for the ACCI and for the Cree Nation in the Val-d’Or region following the police abuse scandal of 2015-16. Organizers hope that the number of sponsors, along with the joint effort between the Val-d’Or region and the local Indigenous community, demonstrates a sincere step forward towards building a better relationship between the peoples of the region.

“It was a good representation,” said Sarah Pash, Executive Director of the Cree Cultural Institute. “Since the event was hosted by the Val-d’Or Chamber of Commerce and the Secretariat, it really brought the Val-d’Or business community and the greater community to the fundraiser.”

After Val-d’Or was embroiled in the abuse scandal, Mayor Pierre Corbeil talked of a “crisis of conscience” during an inquiry committee hearing in 2017 and promised to improve the relationship.

Stéphan Ferron, president of the Val-d’Or Chamber of Commerce, spoke highly of the joint support. “We feel like these local enterprises sincerely hope to involve themselves with community business,” Ferron said in a press release. “We’re also proud to support the ACCI in all their activities.”

Attendees feasted their eyes on the exhibit Footprints: A Walk Through Generations. The installation was honoured with an award from the Canadian Museum Association in the Exhibition: Cultural Heritage category this past April.

This unique exhibit, which takes two days to build and tear down, brought participants on guided tours across audio/visual stories with over 150 objects, mapping the migration and evolution of Eeyou Cree people over several generations. It can be found at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau for the next 10 months.

“I thought it was quite amazing what the Cree Nation put this together and explained the history through walking,” noted Chantal Hamelin, Director of Operations for the Secretariat. “There’s a big willingness to help and understand each other.”

The idea of a fundraising event came last December during a meeting between Grand Chief Abel Bosum, members of ACCI and the Secretariat.

For Pash, the exhibit gave the Val-d’Or community an opportunity to learn more about the Indigenous community. “People were grateful to see the exhibit,” she said. “The reception in Val-d’Or was very enthusiastic. It will do what we set out to do with it, which is to educate people on the life of our people.”

The money raised will be added to the ACCI fund and support the long-term viability of the Cree culture in the Eeyou Istchee region.

“It was so nice to see all of us together sharing Cree culture, and everyone being so engaged in what we represent,” said Pash.

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