ANG 160 Fall 2005
(by Isabeau Duhaime-Moffat)
Those who think Val-d’Or in Abitibi-Témiscamingue is “up north”
are wrong. For the James Bay Crees,
Val-d’Or is situated south of everything.
For them, Val-d’Or is the major urbanized town, the place they go to
shop and get health services. For
them, Val-d’Or is a meeting place. 30
years ago, the Native Friendship Centre in Val-d’Or was open and since then
the staff of the centre has been working to promote harmonious relations between
Natives and non-Natives communities. Those
Natives communities are taking a bigger part in Val-d’Or’s economic and
cultural life, with several projects to help forge better intercultural
Native Friendship Centre celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2004.
30 years of promoting better understanding between Natives and
non-Natives communities, 30 years of working to improve the quality of life and
the well being of Native people in Val-d’Or.
Although there are several friendship centres in the country, Val-d’Or
is the only one who deals with several communities.
The members of the centre are not only Crees, but also Algonquins, and
Atikamekw, which brought several challenges.
The centre also lists the respect and promotion of Native culture as one
of its missions. But beyond the
mission, the centre really has an impact for all the communities involved. As a
non-political voice that speaks about social issues of the Cree and Algonquin
communities, the Centre has a lot of credibility, and may be heard better by the
government, than the various Band Councils. People in Val-d’Or, not only
Natives, but non-Natives as well see the centre as a useful and necessary
Friendship Centre provides several different services, from awareness activities
on suicide, AIDS, drug abuse, compulsive gambling and diabetes to the March
Against Racism (over 800 participants in 2004) and the National Aboriginal Day
celebrations on June 21st. Throughout the year, the Centre also organizes
activities to promote intergenerational relations.
There is also the Health Liaison Service, which provides transportation
by air or land for Urban Aboriginal patients as well as coordinating the
appointments with the health facilities professionals.
A person only needs to confirm an appointment 24 hours in advance (unless
it’s an emergency). The Centre
provides a childcare center that welcomes 80 children, half of them non-Natives. Since all the employees of the childcare centre are Natives,
most of the activities focus on the aboriginal culture, traditional stories and
the arts and crafts of the different communities.
The children grow up knowing about different cultures, they learn to have
a more open mind and it seems that all the children and their parents are really
happy with the service. One of the
objectives of the Centre is to help young people to integrate to white culture,
encourage them to find work, go to school and give them a chance to have a
better future. Several of the
programs that the Centre offers are focused on the youth and it seems to be
working well. The Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre has 65 employees, 70 % of
them Native and a big majority of women.
centre has proved that people in Val-d’Or want to have a better sense of
community. It may not always be
easy but people do try to have better relations with the Natives living in town
and the people from the Centre are doing their best to help not only the Natives
to adapt to the White way of life, but also to help non-Natives to understand
the Natives’ traditional customs.
Lists of Sources
Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre Annual
activity reports 2004-2005
cahier du centre/the centre’s notebook, vol 23. No1, January 2005