Mission and vision


A project carried by Minwashin

Minwashin is a non-profit Anicinabe cultural organisation that supports, develops and celebrates Anicinabe culture in a holistic way, particularly through the promotion of its art, language and heritage. For more information, visit minwashin.org

Minwashin started the Nipakanatik project with the aim of collecting as much anicinabe heritage elements as possible and thus documenting the history of the Nation, preserving the archives and sharing them in an ethical manner. Because the Nipakanatik virtual library allows the Anicinabek to have access to a wealth of relevant information on cultural identity, it participates in the dissemination of anicinabe culture and the self-assertion of the Nation's members. Nipakanatik is culturally appropriate for research related to the Anicinabek. 

Why Nipakanatik?

This anicinabe word refers to the structure of a wigwam, which is the set of poles that are first assembled before the canvas is stretched over them. This is the basis of what was used as a shelter for sleeping, telling stories and passing on anicinabe knowledge. For Minwashin, the Nipakanatik project is also an important foundation as it somehow shelters a portion of the culture in order to protect it, listen to it, learn from it and pass on the teachings. Like the wigwam of the past, this virtual library allows the Anicinabek to preserve and transmit an important cultural heritage and to be able to consult it at any time, from a telephone or a computer.


We believe that big changes start with small actions

Nipakanatik was conceived to make the Nation's archives accessible to the Anicinabek of all communities. In this way, we enable the Anicinabek to become responsible for the archives about themselves and to rewrite history by considering the contexts and biased views that have been conveyed in the archives. This is our way of participating in the Anicinabek's self-determination and for this reason we want to ensure that the research done on the Nipakanatik site is approved by the knowledge keepers and respects these conditions.

The approach


The Nipakanatik collections are classified into six themes

Just as the structure of a wigwam is made up of different poles covered by a canvas, the themes proposed in Nipakanatik are the essential elements of anicinabe culture; they are the pillars on which the canvas can be laid. It protects the anicinabe identity. The last pillar, spirituality, represents the canvas that is laid over the poles of the wigwam to link them together and form a whole. Each of these themes constitutes an aspect that should be better known and better transmitted to future generations for a better self-determination of the Anicinabe Nation. A collection of heritage objects and archives has been created for each theme, so that each one is well documented.


Each family lived on and protected its ancestral territories; they knew the names of the rivers, the mountains, and the age-old secrets whispered by the trees. We are all children of Mother Earth, whose hair represents the trees and whose veins represent the rivers. We belong to her and we each have a definite place with her. She is both our mother and our home; she holds a place at the centre of our culture and her balance is the balance of us all. Travelling through the territory, we understand the meaning of things and learn to manage the important and essential moments. We are the dispossessed children of this maternal womb, chained to a small piece of the landscape that we once roamed in its entirety. From the Cree territory to the north, the Atikamekw territory to the east and the Ojibwe territory to the west, the Anicinabe Aki extended as far south as the St. Lawrence River. It was and will always be our home, our temple, our heritage.

Anicinabe ocitowin

There is no word for art in anicinabemowin. However, we know how to recognise and create beauty (Minwashin). In our age-old songs, in our inspired dances, in the colourful patterns that adorn our clothes. Whether for fun, to pass time, to decorate or to indicate landmarks, our ancestors carved, engraved, drew, embroidered, danced, sang and told stories. We have always been artists without knowing it, and we express our culture through our creations. Our art is the witness of our existence, our knowledge and our know-how. If the transmission of this knowledge and know-how has always been essential, it is because it represents a way of life specific to our Nation.


History is the little sister of language. It is history that, for 8,000 years, has described our way of life, related the arrival of the Europeans, the fur trade, the war with the Iroquois and the British, then the forced sedentarization, the residential schools, and the loss... The painful loss of children, family, dignity, language, culture, and even the loss of ourselves. There is this terrible history which makes us wounded humans but also resilient ones. Then there is also this other history, the one that has built the imagination of our culture, in our own language, in this way of thinking that is specific to the anicinabemowin. It is the history of the creation of Mother Earth, that of the first Anicinabek, the one that, because it knows how to designate things, makes them exist at the same time. It is history that explains, beyond reality, the relationship between everything, the influence of spiritual beings, the magic of the fairy stones and the healing power of the land.


Language is at the centre of the head, at the centre of the human being, at the centre of the community. It modulates our way of thinking about life and seeing what surrounds us in a common way, shared for ages. It is articulated and thought out in movement, just as movement emphasises the meaning of our actions and words. It has been developed and learned in movement, on the land, between two paddle strokes, during portages and other journeys. Language is what makes it possible for us to have nothing bigger and nothing smaller in our heads, but everything completes each other to form a harmonious whole. It is what has made it possible to transmit our history and culture, first from ear to ear, then through writing. Sometimes imposed, sometimes silenced and banished, it has been weakened, punished, colonised, invaded by the words of another language, soiled by the mouths of another culture. Today, we must take care of it, clean it with tenderness and feed it. It carries the hope, the values and the autonomy of the nation.


What we have left from our ancestors, every little thing they left behind or gave to us, is a testimony to our thousand-year-old culture. Our heritage teaches us about the ways of ancestors, reveals their imagination, their creativity and their ingenuity in coping with difficulties. These are their stories, our stories. The objects they made with their hands and the names they gave to the landscape are our heritage. Although the concept of heritage does not exist in the Anicinabe culture, we must protect this heritage, as it is the memory of our culture and history that we wish to pass on to future generations.


We are connected to a spiritual world, the world of spirits and the spirits themselves. From time to time, we need to concentrate and feel this connection in order to go beyond what our five senses tell us. We need to get away from these bodily senses, anchored in reality, in order to find ourselves and the reason for our existence on the land. There are moments when it is necessary to stop and simply try to understand. It is important to reconnect with that world, which is not tangible, but always close to us, within ourselves. And we must open ourselves to the world, through ancestral rituals and ceremonies, to feel and understand it and to access the knowledge that comes from the manifestations around us, from the words of an Elder to the presence of an eagle. First, we must be able to recognise and then read the signs.