It was a day of sharing their culture as Mattagami First Nation celebrated the Beaverfest on April 28.
In its 9th year, the Beaverfest is an annual celebration and sharing of the Mattagami people’s culture, said Mattagami First Nation Chief Walter Naveau.
“It’s a way to experience how we lived and share our culture, and show people that this is who we are as First Nations people.”
Naveau said the beaver is a significant part of his people’s culture.
“The beaver was one of our primary food sources,” he said. “It was our food, it was our diet. He helped us to stay more healthy than what we buy in at the store today.”
The beaver also played a big part in the fur trade, as in the past, families spent the winter months out on their traplines and brought fur pelts to the trading post to trade for food or supplies.
Beaverfest featured demonstrations of how to skin and roast a beaver, along with stretching and preparing the hide. The event also had music performances, raffle draws, and a community feast that featured, of course, the beaver.
Many of the youth in this 450-member First Nation live off the reserve for school and jobs in nearby Sudbury and Timmins, making it harder to connect to the land. Today just 300 members live on the reserve.
Naveau said by having the demonstrations, it gave the community youth an educational experience.
“It’s a great opportunity for our youth to see with their own eyes and actually learn some of these things that they’ve never done,” he said. “Part of that culture is gone but it’s coming back and by demonstrating to the youth in the community, it brings a sense of pride in who they are.”
Beaverfest was organized by Elder Leonard Naveau in partnership with the Gogama Fur Council.
“It’s tremendous job to bring people in spirit of unity and also in that spirit of harmony where we work together as a nation to welcome all the different tribes: the Crees, Ojibwas, Oji-Crees, the French, you name it,” Chief Naveau said.
Naveau said the first event started off small by Elder Naveau with two beavers and it continues to get bigger every year.
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