Keeping the Land
Cultural heritage expresses who we are and how we live. It consists of things that we value and share through generations:
- Objects that we can see and touch, like cabins, travel routes, manoomin (wild rice), landscapes and artifacts
- Intangible things like language, songs, music, spiritual practices and stories
We are always singing. We have songs for healing, songs to the Creator, songs for ceremonies, songs for dancing and having fun, songs for the sunrise, songs to honour people, to give thanks, and many more. Songs are given to us from our Elders or come to us in dreams. We can’t just sing songs we hear; they need to be given to us.Elder Abel Bruce
Why Cultural Heritage Matters
Cultural heritage is invaluable. It connects people and unites communities, helping us understand who we are and how we contribute to the world. Cultural heritage provides us with our livelihood and connects us with land-based knowledge and skills that have empowered Anishinaabeg to protect and preserve Pimachiowin Aki for millennia.
How We Preserve Cultural Heritage
Taking Inventory of Cultural Sites
We are crossing land and water to take a complete inventory of Pimachiowin Aki’s vast array of cultural sites, including petroforms, pictographs, cabins, campsites, and sacred and ceremonial sites.
Some of our earliest research began with memory mapping. Anishinaabe Elders walked the land with us and showed us places and things that are only known because they have been passed down from generation to generation through oral stories. With Elders’ guidance, we created maps of travel routes on land and water, campsites and sacred sites. In some cases we returned with archaeologists and discovered ancient artifacts dating back thousands of years.
Registration = Protection
We have registered Pimachiowin Aki’s cultural sites with the government. Now registered, the government knows they exist, and can help protect them. For example, if someone applies for a permit to build a cabin that could compromise a cultural site, the permit could be denied.
Keeping Pictographs Dry
It has come to our attention that people sometimes splash water on pictographs in order to make them more visible. But they shouldn’t — when pictographs get wet, they wear away. Because we know where the pictographs are, our Guardians can monitor the sites to make sure people aren’t compromising their integrity.
You cannot separate culture and language. Keeping the Land means preserving the language — only Anishinaabemowin can express the stewardship laws or give meaning to cultural sites. The language reflects how:
- Natural and dream worlds are perceived
- Places are represented
- Animals and plants are discussed
- Hunting and other practices are expressed
We conduct research and language retention surveys to ensure that Anishinaabemowin (speaking Ojibwe) continues. We fund and host language programs to help maintain the language, songs and stories that form the unique cultural link between the people and land.
Documenting Named Places
Most people think about a landscape as a physical and natural backdrop for life, a sort of stage upon which life happens. But in the Ojibwe way of thinking, the landscape is alive. It is full of human and non-human beings that engage with the people who know a certain place thoroughly.Pauingassi Lands Management Plan
We are researching and documenting named places to help preserve language, culture and the traditional knowledge that is passed down through generations through stories and songs.
On Google Maps
We forward the named places to the provincial government so that they are included in official topographic maps and will show up on popular sources like Google Maps.
Keeping Tradition Alive
The First Nations of Pimachiowin Aki are creating posters of named places for their schools and communities. The posters give meaning to these places and will help keep the stories about these places alive.
Connecting Youth to Cultural Heritage
We link youth from Pimachiowin Aki to their cultural heritage by organizing visits to the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg. The museum houses artifacts from Pauingassi and provides exciting opportunities for language teaching though the Spirit Lines Project.