The Cree entertainment dollar is worth millions for neighbouring towns like Val d’Or and Chibougamau, so the town of Amos recently decided that a great way to attract their northern neighbours is to woo them in their own communities.

During the week of January 16, eight members of the Amos Chamber of Commerce spent an average of a day and a half in the communities of Eastmain, Nemaska and Waskaganish to promote their town as a shopping and lodging alternative to places like Val d’Or.

“Two years ago we hired Kenneth Gilpin as our liaison officer to build links to the communities and that was a part of that,” said Eric Pomerleau, financial advisor for the Amos Chamber of Commerce. “We wanted the Cree to feel welcome in Amos.”

Pomerleau and his crew, which included Amos Mayor Ulrick Chérubin, met with the Chiefs of the three communities as well as band council members, local businessmen and members of the local school boards.

“They’ve visited Amos quite a few times and we wanted to give them the same respect by visiting their communities,” said Pomerleau.

An interesting part of their short trip was an introduction to Cree history by Jim Hester in Waskaganish to help them understand their Cree friends more. They also went ice fishing in Eastmain.

Pomerleau visited Eastmain and Chisasibi late last year and is looking forward to coming back once again in March, as soon as the Chamber of Commerce has a chance to sit down and digest the data collected in Eeyou Istchee.

“We’d like to go back again as soon as we can. Maybe for the fishing season in August in Nemaska or Waskaganish,” he said. “A lot of people told us that we should know the Cree culture more to understand the Cree better and that’s what we want to do.”

The benefit for the Cree community, Pomerleau added, is to know there is another town aside from Val d’Or that offers services and products Crees may need. “That way they can compare which town they prefer, but they will have a choice,” Pomerleau said. “All of the services in Amos compare to Val d’Or. And for us, it’s to know our neighbors to the north better.”

Pomerleau said that although there are no statistics on Cree spending in Amos, he will be trying to figure out a way to do gather them.

One of the ways to make Amos more attractive is to promote the use of English in the town’s commercial sector, he noted. “Right now we’re working with the business people in Amos to let them know that if they want to work with the Cree community, they must hire people who speak English.”