The 2005 International Air Rally was off to a flying start with a six-day “Cree Challenge” that brought international attention to the Cree communities of Quebec.

The “Cree Challenge” took place August 12-17 with 23 aircraft and crews from places as diverse as California and Romania. The flights took off from St. Hubert airport near Montreal. The event was hosted by the communities of Waskaganish, Wemindji and Whapmagoostui and ended in Sherbrooke.

The director of the Air Rally, Catherine Tobenas, said the experience was great. “The communities were incredible and left memories that we will never forget in our minds. We shared our cultures and were invited to eat traditional foods. The communities did everything they could [to make us comfortable].”

Journalists who participated had the chance to meet the Chiefs of the hosting communities and familiarize themselves with Cree culture and politics. In all, seven countries participated in the event, including the United States, France, Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Romania and Canada.

“It’s a way to bring people to the North and open windows to these communities and the world, and to meet people in a way that they would not have been able to,” said Catherine Tobenas.

Tobenas gave her thanks to the hosting communities Chief Masty of Whapmagoostui, Chief Weistche of Waskaganish, Chief Katapatuk of Washaw Sibi, Kenneth Gilpin of Eastmain, Challenge Cree coordinator and the director of communications of Wemindji, Mark Wadden. Joseph Gali, of Montreal, won the Cree Challenge Trophy.