Jamii first visited Pikangikum First Nation in September 2018.
We were extremely grateful, humbled, and honoured for this opportunity, thanks to Asmita Pal connection to this community.
We were warmly received by a community that not only opened their doors, but also their many stories to us. We met with Elder Amie Owen, who shared a meal of moose meat and bannock with us, and told us about his experiences in residential school; David, who kept an eye on us in the hotel; Lucie Strang, who shared both her experience as a Native Language teacher in both oral Ojibwe and slavics, over multiple generations in the community, as well as her gift as a star quilt maker.
We also met with Shirley Keesic, who is leading Restorative Justice Circles throughout Northern Ontario communities; Walter Latt and Marvin McKay-Keenan, who are managing the impressive new school, Eenchokay Birchstick School; Daniel Keeper, the Assistant Director of Education for the Pikangikum Education Authority; gifted visual artist Mario Peters, who showed us his studio and shared his artistic process and the teachings within his work; Ryan Saunders, who works at Project Journey and facilitates outdoor education engagement and employment opportunities for local youth; Andrew Mattacchione, whose hospitality helped us feel at home; Anne Warner, who treated us to breakfast during the power outage;
Last but not least, we met with Elder Matthew Strang, who was ready to share with the creation stories connected to the water, land and people of Pikangikum. Little did we knew that we would reconnect with Matthew in 2022!
In a short week, we had a taste of life in Pikangikum with a busy orientation week for the 200+ teachers before the first day for students, a 2-day fishing derby, a power outage, a fiddler and country rock concert hosted at the Community Centre, a 2-day water outage, visits to the community centre, the nursing station, the school, the Northern, a walk around the lagoon, and many, many meals at the one and only restaurant in town.While the reserve faced many challenges, we were grateful to those who openly shared their heartfelt, sincere experiences living and/or working in Pikangikum.
In December 2019, Jamii visited Pikangikum a second time.
Our intent was to confirm with Pikamgikum, leadership the coordination of "Wind Storiees". Both Jamii's Director Isorine Marc and Indigenous Spoken Word Artist Mahlikah Awe:ri were on this trip and met with several community members to discuss how to bring this project to life in February 2020.
The intent of the proposed project was to create bridges between 4 communities in Ontario by sharing our stories together. People participating in the project were invited to make a portrait of someone else in their community through creative writing, photography and visual arts.