In this article, I want to share with you important information regarding the culture and the identity of the Kaministikominahiko-skak (KCN) people which is now Cumberland House. At the same time, I want to define the terms of culture and identity.
Culture is a way of life of a people, and it’s important to know that the main characteristics of any culture is language, land and resources, beliefs and value systems, government, and territory.
At the beginning, the Creator gave us life (pimachowin) as Cree people. He also gave us our Sovereignty and Inherent rights which enabled us to sign treaty with the Crown and to continue our way of life.
Identity is a people's understandings of who they are, and how they relate to others.It’s the way individuals and groups define themselves and are defined by others on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, language, and culture.
A very important teaching that affects our Identity is ‘manacimitowin”. This Cree teaching was used to promote harmony and balance in family relationships. We were not allowed to gossip because words could be used to put down people and their families. This type of activity was not tolerated by the ancestors because they knew words are very powerful and they could affect our minds, our emotions, and the way we see ourselves.
As well, research shows that children begin thinking about their identity and who they are when they are around the age of nine
Part of our inherent rights is environmental stewardship. KCN research shows that we are the guardians of the Cumberland Delta, and our territory is huge, and at the time treaty which went as far as the Pas, Manitoba and as far west to the Prince Albert National Park.
Along with our inherent rights we also have responsibilities. It is our job to look after mother earth. the plants, the water, the animals, and all living things for future generations.
We were also taught to respect all cultures. We were not allowed to teach our children to hate people because of their color and the way they looked. In addition, we had to respect all religions.
To help KCN families live in harmony and balance with each other, our ancestors taught them Cree relationship teachings of wahkotowin, kisewahtotahtowin, manacimitowin, kitimahkenimitowin, and mamawi-wichihitowin. Through assimilation and colonization, we lost many of our Cree teachings and the time is right to bring them back.
Through our Cree belief system, our ancestors knew that everything in life is connected, and is in constant change. They also knew that we live in two worlds; the physical world, and the spiritual world. During our life time, we live in the physical world, and when we die we would go to the spiritual world. Spiritually our loved ones are not too far away.
Because of our culture and values, we were able to develop and sustain strong family units, healthy communities, and a clean environment for all living things. Our culture is beautiful and before Colonization, the Kaministikominahiko-skak (KCN) people lived life in good way.
However, when the new comers arrived in our territory, our way of life rapidly changed in a negative way. The newcomers believed that we were not humans, we were animal/savage like, and we were not capable of governing ourselves and the land the Creator gave us to take care of.
As result of Colonization the newcomers declared Rupertsland as their own which included Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation lands and they sold those lands to the Canadian government for a very good profit. This land was not theirs to sell
In 1876, our ancestors signed an Adhesion to Indian Treaty 5 on Kaministikominahiko-skak lands which is now known as Cumberland House. The three people that signed were all members of the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation. (See KCN Treaty 5 Research Report)
At the same time, the Indian Agents and government officials amalgamated KCN people with other Cree groups promising to come back and de-amalgamate the Cumberland Band of Indians.
The government has never fulfilled their promise to come back and de-amalgamate the KCN people. We were Sovereign Nation before treaty, at the time of treaty, and continue to be a Sovereign Nation.