Parks Canada

Parks Canada

August 07, 2009 13:00 ET

Government of Canada Celebrates the Historical Significance of Waapushukamikw

Mistassini Quartzite and Cree's Religious Practice Site

MISTISSINI, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Aug. 7, 2009) - The Honourable Jim Prentice, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today celebrated the national historic significance of Waapushukamikw, which he designated a national historic site of Canada, upon recommendation from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

"Designations such as this one commemorate important chapters in Canada's history," said minister Prentice. "Our government is proud to help protect this exceptional place, and to add it to Canada's system of national historic sites."

"I am very happy to designate this site as a national historic site, as it commemorates an important chapter in the history of Aboriginal people," said Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (agriculture and agri-food) "Not only is Waapushukamikw considered of significant spiritual importance for the Mistissini Cree, but it also witnessed more than 7,000 years of history and is a precious heritage for future generations."

"Waapushukamikw was an important prayer and religious practice ground of our people, declared Chief John Longchap," Council of the Cree Nation of Mistissini. "This secular place was discovered by our ancestors and we need to protect it for our children."

Located in the town of Mistissini, Waapushukamikw, or Colline Blanche, was, for thousands of years, the main stone quarry used to make cutting tools from raw material. Aboriginal people have been going to this place since the retreat of glaciers, 7,000 years ago, to extract the very distinctive, fine-grained white quartzite that can be found on the site. The Waapushukamikw quartzite was still in use in the James Bay area 500 years ago, and it was used until the 19th century, long after iron was made available.

Encircled with potholes of various sizes, this hill hides a natural cave named the Marble Den. This place was formerly used by the shamans to celebrate their traditional rituals. Nowadays, it is an archaeological site that was identified as a cultural icon by the Government of Quebec.

"This special place, with links to Aboriginal traditions and spiritual rituals, reminds us all of the exceptional and irreplaceable value of Aboriginal heritage", said the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. "Through this designation, we celebrate the many contributions of Canada's Aboriginal peoples to our country's rich history."

Parks Canada works to ensure that Canada's historic and natural heritage is presented and protected for the enjoyment, education, appreciation and inspired discovery of all Canadians, today and in the future.

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