If you are traveling to another community this summer, have a look at what’s going on and plan your trip accordingly. Among the Cree communities – in Quebec and Ontario – there are numerous activities, sports events, festivals and celebrations that happen throughout the summer months with something that will appeal to just about everyone. If you want more details, you can always contact the band council offices, or the recreational or cultural centres.
Chisasibi is a hub of activity. Every summer in late July a gathering is held on the island of Fort George – Chisasibi’s original site. This year’s Mamoweedow (meaning “Let’s get together on the island”) takes place July 20-26. The festivities usually include nightly dancing and sing-alongs, plus lots of traditional Cree games such as disc-throwing, hunting games and storytelling.
While August 18 is Chisasibi’s official birthday, the community likes to stretch it out by hosting a four-day birthday bash August 15-18. There will be plenty of activities for participants of all ages and lots of stuff to keep everyone active from softball and basketball tournaments to children’s activities.
Now in its third year, the Cree Arts Festival is back in Chisasibi August 21-23. Last year’s event featured country singer Shane Yellowbird and rock band CerAmony. As this festival is all about promoting Cree art, there will be free booths available for artists to display and sell their creations.
And don’t forget Chisasibi’s Annual Traditional Powwow August 8-9. This is one event that brings out the crowds.
In the third week of July, Mistissini will hold its annual summer gathering for a week of traditional activities centering around fishing and smoking fish, Elders’ teachings, canoe racing, children’s activities, a community dance as well as cultural exhibits and artisan displays.
On the sports front, the Mistissini Golf Tournament will be held in Chibougamau July 23 and there’s a softball tournament August 6-9. Plus there’s the annual Mistissini police department’s three-day fishing contest in August; so far no date has been announced.
Old Nemaska Days started on July 1 and continues until July 12. As Nemaska was moved 31 years ago, residents head back to where the community was once located on the banks of the Rupert River to relax for two weeks and awaken its communal spirit. There’s fishing, paddle making, traditional activities and lots of children’s events at this celebration along with nightly entertainment. The gathering begins and ends with a community feast.
A few weeks later, Nemaska will again host the Cree Fitness Challenge July 31-August 2. This three-day event is like a triathlon but with a Cree twist as canoeing and portaging is added to the standard running, cycling and swimming. There will also be an arm-wrestling competition as well as a strongman competition.
Throughout the summer the waterfront in Waskaganish will be landscaped and developed into a heritage area. With the theme being “Bring Back the Old Days”, plans include having displays on the original Rupert House settlement as well as setting up a wigwam and log cabin. And though nothing is confirmed, a large celebration is planned for late August, possibly August 24, with lots of traditional activities.
Waskaginish has always been a popular tourist destination for river tours, paddling and white-water rafting. With this being the last summer before the damming of the Rupert, there will lots of people passing through town to see the Rupert in all its natural glory for the final time.
Starting in mid-August, the community of Waskaganish will have its annual Fish Bonding Run in which residents track the migration of fish up to Smoky Hill where they scoop them up, clean them and smoke them.
In late July, the community of Waswanipi hosts Chiiwetau (or “Going Back Home”) at the old Waswanipi post where the town was located until 1975. During this time the community holds walking-out ceremonies, traditional activities and games as well as a feast and a popular fishing derby. At night there’s always lots of entertainment featuring square dancing, jigging and music.
Wemindji has selected July 15 as its official birthday. Leading up to this anniversary, the community will celebrate 50 years at its current site since relocating from Old Factory Island in 1959 with a two-week event, July 1-15. Music plays a major role with featured artists Blue Rodeo, John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band, The Blushing Brides, Crystal Shawanda and Shane Yellowbird performing July 10-12. Activities are broken down into various categories, including traditional, family and Elders. There’s even a Health and Fitness Day (July 13) featuring a cycling marathon and swimming races.
The community’s summer gathering near Great Whale takes place in mid-July. This traditional gathering usually focuses on beliefs, values and survival skills. Traditional teepees are set up for the event where the boys learn trapping, fishing and hunting skills and the girls learn how to clean and cook traditional food. Teaching preparation of traditional medicines and dream-catchers will also be part of this celebration and there will be lots of entertainment.
On the Ontario side of James Bay, the Cree communities of Attawapiskat, Kashechewan and Moose Cree also have annual summer festivals. The one in Attawapiskat is in mid-August, Kashechewan in July and Moose Cree First Nation in late July and early August. These events all feature traditional activities, games, food, music, dancing and nightly entertainment. For more info, call the local band office: Attawapiskat 705-997-2166; Kashechewan 705-275-4440; and Moose Cree 705-658-4619.