Hunting, Trapping, and Fishing Culture
Wemindji “Iiyuuch”: referring to “people” has strong cultural values and traditions and continues to practice their traditional hunting, fishing and trapping. With the assistance of the Wemindji Trappers Association a quarter of the residents within the community still live year-round in the bush, while others go to their family traplines on weekends or when they have free time.
The Eeyou Istchee is abundant with various animals such as the moose, caribou, black bear, goose, ptarmigan, rabbit, beaver and fish all of which are harvested by the Cree’s.
The Cree’s follow the seasons and migration of the animals for better and respectful harvesting.
The Cree people have hunting and trapping law called Eeyou Weeshou-Wehwun (Traditional Eeyou Law), which is based on the cultural values and beliefs that has been passed on since time immemorial.
It is a belief that the Chishaaminituu (Great Spirit) has given them a portion of the Earth as their homeland and that the Cree Eeyouch are the stewards of the land. The Eeyou Weeshou-Wehwun (Traditional Eeyou Law) is based on following values and principals that promote and help maintain harmony in their relationships with each other and with the land and living resources of Eeyou Istchee, it is a land management system, and that everything is interconnected.
- Souchayimuwiin / Courage
- Taabwaaoushiiwiin / Honesty:
- Dibtaiimuwiin / Humility:
- Souwaayiichiichaawiin / Compassion:
- Chishtaiimiiduuwin / Respect:
- Naanahwiikaaduuwiin / Sharing:
- Kaachaataawaayiitaamuwiin /Wisdom:
The Hunting Law is a written form of the Cree customs for the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee. The Cree’s are responsible for stewardship of the land and must follow guidelines on harvesting animals, fishing and trapping. Other responsibilities are management of the lands/traplines, lakes, rivers and the James Bay. The rules and guidelines are set to respect, preserve and maintain the land for the future generations.
Wemindji is the only community that builds spruce baskets that is weaved with spruce root to keep the desired shape. These baskets are used to pick berries, they are used fill with traditional food for feasts, and can even be used as a decorative bowls for special occasions. It is a unique and creative production that helps the community stand out from the rest of the James Bay Cree Nations.
The goose is harvested during the spring/fall season and is roasted over open fire (sigabon) commonly enjoyed with the goose drippings, potatoes and side of bannock on a stick.
Other traditional meals that are harvested by Cree’s throughout the year include: Beaver, Moose, caribou, black bear, various fish, rabbit, ptarmigan, grouse, duck, and wild berries. Each animal with his or her own teachings and cultural significance, all of which are traditionally prepared with outmost respect.
The teepee is a traditional dwelling that our ancestors have used since time immemorial. Teepees are used for traditional cooking and smoking meat/fish and are visible throughout the community.
The boughs are changed every 2-3 weeks, white or black spruce boughs are preferred because of the aroma. INSERT PHOTO
Traditionally the entrance of the Teepee is always facing the East representing the beginning of the day and where everything begins. It is one of many vital teaching of our philosophy.
1,600 years ago the “Shaptuan” made its appearance. INSERT PHOTO
The Shaptuan in Cree language means “crossing” which signifies the architecture of the long house having two doorways at both ends of the house it is made up of spruce poles.
This picture is a diagram developed by Fred Georgekish for his book called Iiyiyuu Miichiwaahph: Traditional Architecture of the Wemindji Cree. Fred Georgekish was a community member of the Cree Nation of Wemindji.
Traditional skirts are worn during traditional activities and ceremonies; traditionally women would skillfully create traditional outfits from their visions.
The moose and caribou in particular supply them not only sustenance but make essential tools and clothing such: pants, shirt, mukluks, moccasins, snowshoes and teepees.
Traditionally garments were painted and designed with materials of the wildlife such quills, and other animal bones or fur, and pieces were sewn together with moose sinew. Today the traditional wear is influenced with the contemporary materials such as beads, embroidery thread and ribbons.
Ceremonies are an important component in the Cree Society every milestone of a child’s development is celebrated with a feast and expression of happiness:
• The birth, first step, walking out ceremony, first snowshoe walk, and first kill. Feasting and sharing food to give thanks and demonstrate respect for the animal is celebrated after a successful hunt.
Other forms of ceremonies are healing ceremonies that are held out on the land where people go out as a group to share common experiences, knowledge and stories to solve social issues.
These can be canoe expeditions, and snowshoe journeys that the youth can participate in and where elders take their role as guides and facilitators to help the people through the healing journey.