Canada’s award-winning Indigenous museum, cultural institution, and showcase of the history of the James Bay Crees.
Aanischaaukamikw is a museum, archive, library, teaching centre, and cultural centre, and a virtual hub designed for high-powered interactivity.
Located in the UN award-winning community of Oujé-Bougoumou, Aanischaaukamikw has been developed in collaboration with all ten communities in Eeyou Istchee, and helps “complete the circle” of the James Bay Crees’ quest to exercise full control over all aspects of their lives, communities, and cultural destiny.
Aanischaaukamikw has highly advanced interactive capacity, ranging from on-site wireless applications so viewers can “tour” the building guided by their hand-held devices to worldwide distance education capabilities in which objects can be viewed and rotated, multimedia files can be played, and documents can be examined and downloaded.
Our visitor interpreters, our researchers and our curators are all oriented to interact and share with visitors. This echoes a philosophy of knowledge transfer that encourages and validates the storytelling traditions.
Aanischaaukamikw flows from the knowledge that Cree culture must be captured, maintained, shared, celebrated, and practiced – the concept of “aanscha” or sharing of the ways. The Institute is a symbol of the James Bay Crees’ determination to preserve and share the stories and legends, the music, the pictures, and the physical objects that show this First Nations people’s unique interaction with the land.
While the vision for Aanischaaukamikw had been discussed for decades, the actual project moved into high gear in 1998. A campaign team was formed, and over the next 13 years, over $21.5 million was raised for the building project and endowments from governments, businesses, Cree entities, individuals and families, and memoranda of agreements were struck with major institutions like the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
In November 2009 a ground-breaking ceremony started the construction of the building. In November 2011, Aanischaaukamikw opened its doors to the public for the first time.
The Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute Board of Directors provides oversight for all aspects of the day-to-day operations. This group has representatives from all ten James Bay Cree communities, headed by an Executive Committee.
Inspiration for Aanischaaukamikw’s bold design, with its massive laminated spruce beams, comes from the essential structure of the traditional Cree sabtuan.
Inspiration for Aanischaaukamikw’s bold design, with its massive spruce beams, comes from the essential structure of the traditional Cree sabtuan.
The original design was developed by eminent First Nations architect Douglas Cardinal through a series of visioning sessions and close collaboration with Elders. Cardinal and Rubin Rotman Architects of Montreal brought the project to completion.
Aanischaaukamikw has the distinction of certification as a “Category A Museum”, the highest standard for environmental conditions for a museum, and also has achieved the coveted LEED Silver Status.
The Institute has 279 m² (3,003 square feet) of exhibition space, 1,385 m² (14,908 square feet) of storage, lab, administrative, and technical space.
The building’s main level is divided into four key areas:
The entire building has temperature and humidity-controlled storage, research labs, administration, and conservation spaces, and office space for Cree entities concerned with language, traditional pursuits, arts and crafts, and tourism.
Consideration for good environmental, social and governance practices ensured Aanischaaukamikw’s architects focused on sustainable energy and construction practices. The building’s compact footprint, its orientation and geometry, and the integration of geothermal heating and cooling all contribute to minimizing energy consumption, and the achievement of a prestigious LEED Silver Certification, bestowed by the Canada Green Building Council.