The Pulse of the Nation for this issue is to examine how and if Crees see tourism as a viable part of the Cree economy. Many Cree businesspeople are still learning how to tap into this growing market. There is still a lot of training and planning needed. Overall, however, the response we found is that tourism is or could be a big part of the Cree economy.
Kenny Petawabino, Mistissini, thinks tourism is good for the community because it generates money in the community for the benefit of the local promoter and its employees. “Our community has had an increase in tourism and it is basically the quality of service that you offer to them that will determine if they will keep coming back. Obviously, you also have to have a very good attitude towards tourists because they will judge you from this characteristic and of course, your local tourism department has to provide good promotional and marketing services,”
David Pepabino, from Chisasibi: “There are 13 of us that have shares for our fishing camp. Let me put it this way, if I apply for a grant or money to fix up my business or fishing camp, I can turn around and pocket the money, go down to Val d’Or on a shopping spree. I can buy myself a vehicle and neglect my business. What do you think will happen? Of course, my business will not prosper. I believe tourism could be a source of economic stability to those who know how to run it properly and how to treat our tourists.”
Steve Mianscum: “Ouje-Bougoumou hosts thousands of visitors to our community and we’ve seen that there are two different types of tourists. The first is the cultural type of tourist who visits the community in order to learn about the culture, the environment and the traditions it exemplifies. These tourists stay in the community and, in a large number of cases, also go on cultural excursions with our tour operators. The other type comprises those that come to the community for business or professional services. With the rapid economic development taking place in the community we see more and more of this tourist visitor traffic.”
Eric House, Chisasibi: “It’s a good time to show our traditional knowledge of the land. There’s so much destruction of the environment around the world; we are the ones who know how to take care of and preserve it. We should pass on this knowledge to tell people [tourists] how we take care of our environment.”
Raymond Blackned, Waskaganish: “Tourism generates economic stability, business entrepreneur opportunities, and creates employment. It is a vital tool to adapt within our community business plans in sustaining the Cree Nation economy.”
John Brown, of Eastmain, thinks we need to focus on education [in tourism]. He also says much planning needs to be done before the Cree people can get ahead in running tourism, but the potential is there.
Billy Blackned of Wemindji believes the potential is there if people would get up and do something about it. “We have the islands just off the shore here where tourists can go fossil hunting. People from the outside are just fascinated by Cree culture, especially if they’re seeing it for the first time. In the inland area there are good places for skiers and even for snowboarding. I know white people like those kinds of activities. There are a lot of things we can do for tourists here. There are two kinds of visitors, though. We can’t mix them up because there are the naturalists and there are the hunters.”