The Cree Nation of Chisasibi officially celebrated its 40th anniversary August 18, but the celebrations took place over several days.
There were dances with 1970s and 1980s themes. A Fun Fair came to town, and its kiddie rides were a hit, as was the Space Ride for the older youth. It had all the goodies of any fair in the south, with corn dogs, poutine and burgers.
A featured event was the Princess Pageant to crown Miss Chisasibi for 2021-22. Delayna Cox, who represented the Chisasibi Minor Sports Committee, now wears the crown. Runners up included Angie Scipio Herodier, Crystal Swallow, Danielle Iserhoff and Miss Waapinischikush – Christina Pachano. All showed their talents, speaking proficiencies, and were dressed both in Western-style dresses and in more traditional Cree dresses. It may have been a hard job for the judges, but Delayna was the brighter light on this night.
A special Elders’ Day took place August 16, when the official activities were launched. They had their own games – some of the women were blindfolded as they were in dressed-up toy dolls in a traditional wrap, or Waaspisooyaan. Traditional foods included bear meat, one of the tastier treats.
The ’70s night was the highlight for the Fort George Crowd, with curious younger onlookers wondering why there was no rap music back then. Instead, a theme song was probably Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”. Meanwhile, an ’80s night featured Bee Gees classics like “Night Fever”. Not to be outdone, the ’90s night was loud – most of the town could hear the bass-driven beats from the ball field, where Lyle Cox handlded the DJ duties. Local MC Gabriel Herodier could be heard encouraging and cheering on the dancers.
On the official anniversary, August 18, Chief Daisy House recalled the work that Chisasibi community members had accomplished over 40 years. She participated in a singalong with Deputy Chief Paula Napash, performing “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” a song made famous in Chisasibi by retired elementary school teacher Kathleen Kitty.
Then came the traditional “Happy Birthday” song for Chisasibi as 40 children released 40 helium-filled balloons to rise into the sky. This was followed by the Chisasibi Singers who opened a mini powwow with a Flag Song.
“We should be proud as the Cree Nation in all that we have accomplished over the years, and that as a person who can say that they are from Chisasibi, they can be proud of that reality,” said Chief House. “Being moved from the Island of Fort George, it was always called Chisasibi, and it was in 1979 and 1980 that our community moved from the island to the mainland, but it was only on August 18, 1981, that it was seen as our official move here.”
An important highlight of the day was the book launch of Chisasibi and its People, A Brief History, by local writer Janie Pachano. The first 40 copies were given away for free.
“I have learned and gathered the stories of Chisasibi,” Pachano told the Nation. “I didn’t write continuously for the past 40 years, but here and there, writing the stories down of our people, as I heard them from our Elders over many years of working with them. I shared stories of where the people of Chisasibi have walked from.”
Other activities included an Elders’ camp, where a traditional shaptuaan was set up and traditional meals were shared. Children’s activities were dominant at the second ballfield, and laughter and screaming could be heard throughout the day. Then two Innu rock bands performed before the evening ended with a fireworks display that lasted 20 minutes.
The following day featured a traditional barbecue, at which local performers kept people entertained into the evening. On Saturday, people of all ages participated in a square dance competition.
Many Chisasibi community members helped make this a memorable birthday party. The jet lag from all the organizing was felt by the team at the Chisasibi Band Office, especially the Recreation Department that was responsible for the Princess Pageant and other activities. Perhaps in 40 years they’ll recall what they did four decades earlier and provide the material for another book.