More than 350 in 2023
Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site
By Svenja Hansen and Cecil Chabot
This year marks the 350th anniversary of Moose Factory, a national historic site and the oldest continuous hub of Indigenous-European relations in subarctic North America. To mark the occasion and encourage community development and reconciliation, the Moose River Heritage and Hospitality Association (MRHHA) has launched a year-long commemoration.
From March 2023 through February 2024, following the Cree lunar calendar, events and activities are being planned, as well as some rejuvenation and legacy projects as part of More than 350 Years in the Making: Moose Factory in Omushkego Aski, from Time Immemorial to 1673 to 2023 (English only). Parks Canada is participating in various initiatives associated with the anniversary, including the efforts to position it within the much deeper and broader history of the people who have lived in this part of Omushkego Aski (land of the muskeg dwellers).
The Môsonîw Ililiwak (Moose Cree people) have lived in the southwestern James Bay watershed since time beyond memory. From one generation to the next, elders – and the land itself – have passed along lessons about the importance of hospitality and reciprocity and the consequences of failing to uphold such values. The Cree term for this way of being is Šawelihcikewin (“sha-we-lee-chee-ke-win”), which translates as “receiving with gratitude and a desire to give back”. The best English translation is likely reciprocity, but also sharing, generosity, hospitality, honouring, and gratitude. When the Hudson’s Bay Company established a fur trade post in the Moose River watershed in 1673, 350 years ago, its enterprise and survival were dependent on Šawelihcikewin.
By the early 1700s, Cree-European relationships in this region were extending beyond commerce. When Moose Cree leaders signed Treaty 9 in 1905, they were informed by more than two centuries of Indigenous-European relationships, marked by socio-economic reciprocity, intermarriage, and interculturality. These relations, like pre-contact relations in the area, were not perfect, but they gave reason to hope that the treaty would be honoured. Unfortunately, the post-treaty years saw the imposition of the Indian Act and residential schools as part of a coercive program of assimilation, the fallout from which is still being felt.
Over the last fifty years, Parks Canada has placed two heritage plaques in this homeland of Moose Cree First Nation: one for Philip Turnor, a surveyor with the HBC, and the other for the remaining original Moose Factory Buildings. For the latter plaque, MRHHA was instrumental in making sure the contributions of the Ililiwak toward the Moose Factory Post were recognized and articulated not only in English and French but, first and foremost, in Cree. Parks Canada is now contributing towards the construction of a commemorative community bake oven that symbolizes Šawelihcikewin.
This “More than 350 in 2023” initiative is an opportunity to “build a future with our shared past” by learning from the best and worst of this history. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the resilience of Cree culture and the continued resonance of reciprocity and hospitality. Why not take a trip to Moosonee and Moose Factory this summer and be party to history and experience this hospitality?
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