On April 25, 2012 I had the good fortune to witness a little piece of history in real time as Aanischaaukamikw’s President, Dianne Reid Ottereyes was honoured with the presentation of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal at the Canadian Museums Association’s 65th National Conference and Awards Gala in Gatineau, Quebec. We join Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come and MP Romeo Saganash to once again congratulate and salute Dianne for a well-deserved award. Congratulations as well to all of CMA’s 2012 award recipients.
For those unfamiliar with the medal, it was created exclusively to commemorate sixty years since Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne (1952-2012). The Canadian Museums Association was chosen as one of the few non-governmental organizations invited to award a limited number of these commemorative medals. Awarded to museum professionals who have made significant contributions and achievements, Dianne was recognized for her contributions to Canadian culture and heritage. Specifically, this award recognizes her leadership role in the preservation of Cree culture which has led to the establishment of the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute.
As the commencement of the Awards Gala approached, and with family, friends and coworkers forming a tightly knit circle of support, we joined in the celebratory mood led by Dianne. We each waited for an opportunity to share our congratulations and of course, stood proudly beside Dianne for countless photographs. From there on, the evening progressed with the presentation of medals by the Honorable Rob Moore in first order of the evening’s program. No one cheered or clapped more loudly than Dianne’s entourage as she was called onstage and presented with the medal. In a quiet moment of reflection during a more subdued period of celebration, Dianne’s only comment described her pride in accepting the medal “on behalf of our Elders”.
I think each one of us present at the Awards Gala truly shared in the joy of the moment since we, as employees, get to witness the tangible results of the efforts of Dianne and the Elders every time we enter the building. Aanischaaukamikw itself is an awesome symbol of how vision can be turned into reality. I felt in that moment that a truly important achievement had been accomplished, because others cared enough about our future to consider preserving our language, history, traditions, and legends. And in the spirit of Cree hospitality, we welcome all visitors for the chance to experience this unique cultural institute and museum.