It was another first for the small community of Mistissini. The Grands Prix du tourisme quebecois Desjardins 2008 came to town on April 3. Guest speakers included Andy Baribeau, councillor for the Cree Nation of Mistissini, Doris Thomassin, president of James Bay Tourism, Sherman Herodier, president of Eeyou Istchee Tourism, Luc Ferland, MNA for Ungava, Albert Diamond, president of Air Creebec, Gerald Lemoyne, president of the Conference regionale des elus, and Louise Seguin of the Ministere du tourisme, to name a few.

The awards were given out at a gala featuring a meal by Cree Northern Catering Services. It was a beautifully done traditional Cree meal.

Three trophies awarded were designed by David Namagoose of Waskaganish.

The first prize was awarded by Albert Diamond who said the prize went to the 9th edition of the biggest fishing tournament in the province of Quebec, held at Lake Opemiska, about 10 km from the town of Chapais. The James Bay Walleye Tournament won for being a tourist event that works with a budget of less than $1 million yet it still gives out more than $110,000 in money and prizes. Dany Girard, president of the tournament, accepted the award.

The second category was “Lodging & Outfitting”. It applies to persons who run a business and offer installations and hunting, fishing, trapping services, such as lodging, transportation, equipment rental, and guide services. Elijah Awashish accepted the award for Osprey Lodge located on Mistissini Lake.

Joshua Iseroff, one of the MC’s, said, “The majestic Mistassini Lake welcomes you to its shores so you can experience the unique opportunity of fishing. And the Cree Nation guarantees an unbelievable outdoor experience! Clients who visit this outfitter have access to an exclusive territory situated above the 51st parallel. The rustic look combined with its modern amenities will ensure a comfortable and memorable stay. You will also be swayed by the layout of the camp with its First Nations architectural and cultural attractions all over the outfitter’s site. Experienced First Nations guides share their stories, their appreciation, and their respect for this magnificent region with every client.”

In the category “Food Services – Tourism Development” the winner was Restaurant Coq Roti located in downtown Chibougamou. Owner Nelson Thibeault accepted the award.

Winners from the event will represent the James Bay/Eeyou Istchee region during the National Gala that will be held in Montreal’s Palais des congres on May 9.

They also have the privilege of being able to use the logo of “Winners of the Grands Prix” in their promotional literature. This logo is being used regionally to give tourists a “guarantee of quality and to reassure tourists in their choice during their visit in the region.”

To be considered for an award, nominees must contribute to the overall improvement of their business’ tourism offer and to Quebec as a destination for the industry. The promotions of their tourism product must be on a regional, national or international level.

As well as the awards they decided to give out merit awards this year. The first one went out to Robert Proulx. As the former director of Assinica Wildlife Reserve as well as those of Albanel, Mistassini and Waconichi lakes since 1970, he is the major reason that these reserves still exist today.

Raymond Thibault, from the Societe de developpement de la Baie-James, presented the second award to Suzanne Desgagnes of Air Creebec. Most clients will remember her warm smile and professionalism at the Air Creebec counter at Chibougamou airport.

Chibougamou Mayor Donald Bubar presented the third award of merit. Serge Huard, owner of the Auberge Le Relais du Lac Cache, accepted the award.

The last award was given out by Luc Ferland, MNA for Ungava. David Mianscum accepted the award. The Master of Ceremonies said Mianscum was “born and raised in the traditional lifestyle of the Cree people in Mistissini. He began his career as an outfitting guide at the age of 17. His knowledge of the land has helped him become recognized and well-respected amongst guests as well as his peers. The ability to work in the outdoors while also having the opportunity to meet new people are some of the reasons he enjoys having a career in outfitting. As an experienced guide, he also takes pleasure in being able to teach his skills to other aspiring guides and encourages more Cree youth to consider following the same path.”