While the vision for Aanischaaukamikw had been discussed for decades, the actual project moved into high gear in 1998. At that time, Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come wrote “Aanischaaukamikw is the physical expression of something the Cree Elders have challenged us to see for a long time: the reclaiming of the ways of Aanscha, the passing-on and protecting of our legends, our stories, and our way of life.
“The presence of Aanischaaukamikw will allow us to share the best we have with the world: offering unique lessons in cultural diversity to Canada and other nations; presenting our ways of biodiversity, sustainable activity, and ecology; fostering better understanding of aboriginal needs, values and perspectives; and reinforcing the enormous value of cultural linkage and exchange.”
A campaign team was formed, Douglas Cardinal was chosen as primary architect, and a site was chosen in Oujé-Bougoumou.
Over the next thirteen years, $15.8 million was raised for the building project from governments, businesses, Cree entities, individuals and families; memoranda of agreements were struck with major institutions like the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and excitement grew among the Crees as it became clear that this new project held the promise of a true “home” for the culture of the James Bay Crees.
In November 2009 a ground-breaking ceremony started the construction of the building. By 2010 programming had been established, the collection was well underway, an Executive Director and other key staff had been chosen, and the construction of the building was in full swing.
In November 2011 Aanischaaukamikw opened its doors to the public for the first time.