A path to the past: History trail project taking shape in northern Quebec
Waswanipi hopes Cree youth will develop a sense of pride, understanding of their story
A walking trail taking shape in northern Quebec aims to connect people from Waswanipi — youth in particular — to the history of their community, and make them proud of where they come from.
The Weskitch Tibaajimuwin Meskinuu "Our Ancient History Trail" project will tell the community's story through 26 large panels with Cree, French and English text. The idea came after the community called to widen the existing walking trail, and make it more secure for elders.
Archival photos will be placed along the 250-metre trail, which runs from a local women's shelter to the culture camp near the Waswanipi River. It will include the stories of chiefs in the community from 1928 until today.
"The goal is to teach Waswanipi youth the history of their community, and what it is today," said Yvette Wabanonik, with the Waswanipi culture department.
"It's to be proud of themselves. So that one day they will be able to say 'this is what our ancestors did.'"
The project was awarded $126,000 from the federal Department of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism this past August.
They don't really talk in school about the history of Waswanipi.- Jerry Gull, Waswanipi walking trail project
It's one of 48 Quebec Indigenous language and culture projects given more than $8.7 million over two years through the federal government's Aboriginal Peoples' Program and its Museums Assistance Program.
Jerry Gull, who works as a grounds keeper for the community and culture department, has been heavily involved in the project putting together the structures and platforms for the panels, as well as collecting old photos.
Gull was born in Waswanipi and knows a lot about the community's history, but said it's something that's been forgotten.
"They don't really talk in school about the history of Waswanipi. It's mostly about Quebec and Canada. It will be nice to have teachers that know the history of Waswanipi," said Gull.
"They can teach the kids about how their grandparents and great-grandparents lived before."
The culture department is in the final stages of collecting photos for the panels, said Robin Gull-Saganash. He inherited the project when he took over as cultural co-ordinator about a year ago. He said many people have contributed to the history trail.
"This project came together with the involvement of the whole community," Gull-Saganash said.
Local elders were interviewed to help write the history texts. Students from the Sabtuan Regional Vocational Training Centre, which is located in the community have also helped with the trail, along with the public works department. The Weskitch Tibaajimuwin Meskinuu trail will be officially unveiled to the community next Spring.