I happened to venture into the heart of la terre québécoise, in the beautiful Lac Saint-Jean area of Innu country, to attend a meeting of other significant people like me, where I noticed something unusual about the reserve of Mashteuiatsh. It was beautiful village with nary a speck of garbage in sight, every lawn was immaculately kept and perfectly mowed and everyone we met was friendly and courteous to boot. Upon entering one of the business establishments, I was quite amazed to hear a language, very similar to the Cree spoken back home.
My meeting was held in the spectacular setting of the local museum, where tourists from around the world came to purchase local arts and crafts and to learn about the Innu of southern Quebec. What caught my attention was the steady flow of tourists, each one leaving with trinkets and souvenirs to take back to a faraway country and tell tales of this quaint North American Indian village. I felt the same way – I had to tell someone. Not surprisingly, the other meeting attendees expressed the same view as I did, that this small town was exceptional compared to other reservations that dot the rest of the country.
After the meeting finished, I checked out the local clinic, where, strangely enough, there seemed to be no one else with any sort of malady, as I was the only patient. Hmmm, I thought, why is this? I waited for a record 30 seconds before I was met by the local nurse, who greeted me in the Innu language and seemed to know of the Cree of northern Quebec. A few minutes later, with my prescription medication in hand, I left a little puzzled.
I tanked up at the local gas bar, where I was pleased to have my status card accepted without question or requisition for further identification or any reason not to accept my worn-out and dated piece of plastic. Looking around the dépanneur, another thing struck me about the store was that it sold beer and wine, all at reasonable local prices. The customer behind me bought a six pack and some cigarettes, not much to bring up, but then I remembered other instances in other places that catered to our Peoples from outside tax-free zones where it was normal to buy a couple of two-fours on a daily basis.
What was wrong with this whole scene? This bothered me to a point where I almost wanted not to accept this, that perhaps the government must have forced everyone to be just like other citizens of this country. But there were no telltale signs of a conspiracy to make everyone comply to the tourism standards that made this place such a good community.
Later on, we checked out the rest of the area and saw the most expansive blueberry fields in the world that no one will believe me when I report what I witnessed back home. Perhaps this was the ideal reservation in the province. Even in the adjoining urban town of Roberval, prices were astoundingly low, much lower than in Montreal or Ottawa. What gives here? Why is this area so great for enterprises, the economy and other things that we cannot find elsewhere? Maybe someone from there should come up here and teach us a thing or two about their success in making their community such a pleasure to live in.