According to the Oujé-Bougoumou Traditional Blueberry Gathering Festival’s event emcee, Jonathan Saganash, this year’s fest was just about the best ever.

Running from August 14-21, this major community event brought in over 1000 visitors to check out the daily activities and nighttime entertainment as well as to sample the celebrated gastronomic contests.

According to Saganash, the festival put on contests for best blueberry jams, pies and bannock as well as one for blueberry picking. There was also a wide variety of children’s activities at the event, with all sorts of inflatable games and water games to keep the little folks occupied.

The nights at this festival were kept colourful with musical and comedic entertainment that featured cover band High-Fives, Claude Mackenzie, U2 Tribute Band and comedian Don Burnstick. The community was also treated to a fireworks extravaganza on the Saturday night.

While the community of Oujé and visiting Crees all had the opportunity to revel in the festivities, Saganash said the event was also about showcasing Native culture to the local Québécois and the world.

“The idea was to show the world the Cree’s traditional ways with blueberries on our land and to also have an exchange with neighbouring communities. That is how we have been regarding this event for the last three years,” said Saganash.

And the event attracted people not only from nearby Chibougamau, Chapais, and Lac St-Jean but from as far away as Italy and France.

During the festival, Burnstick, who has a lengthy history in community development as well as comedy, held workshops with 30 of the community’s youth to share his messages about community.

“The workshops were more about working together as a people because sometimes we Native people are our own worst enemies with jealousy, back biting and gossip. So, we need to learn how to support each other better because we are losing so many of our young people to substance abuse, dropping out of school and teen pregnancy. It’s the adults who need to come together instead of fighting, arguing and backbiting all of the time,” said Burnstick.

Burnstick, who said he was only too happy to share his skills and gifts with the people of Oujé, was there in part to do these workshops because of the divisive community dispute last winter over a backyard sweat lodge that was forcibly torn down by the community. The incident has left a lasting impact on the community.

“I have a lot of respect for the church and what they believe in but the sweat lodge, the sweet grass and the drums were here long before the bible was and we need to acknowledge that too. I have been to a lot of communities where they use both to enhance the beliefs and the spirituality of the people and this is not something meant to divide or ostracize people,” said Burnstick.

And with that, Oujé’s event not only brought about enjoyment and sharing but also healing to a community that was ripe for the mega dose positive energy brought about by a successful week of celebrations.