Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Celebrating the Past; Creating the Future

We’re very lucky to have a long-time client like Joshua Iserhoff of the Cree Nation of Nemaska in Quebec, and I’m personally fortunate to continue to work with him and call him ‘friend’.

Over the years we’ve worked on a variety of projects with Josh and his community, and it’s his passion for tourism and belief in the value of sharing his home and culture that drives these projects forward. This year there are two projects in particular that will help Nemaska celebrate its past and create something for the future.

It’s no secret that elders hold a special place in traditional Indigenous culture, and with this in mind Josh is moving ahead with what may be the first project of its kind in the country – Nemaska’s Stories of Our Elders interpretive trail. Community elders (or their surviving family members) will be interviewed to capture key aspects of their rich lives, remembering stories and preserving their wisdom. This will be incorporated into a variety of media, most prominently on beautifully detailed interpretive panels along a walking path near the community.

Josh is also paving the way for a new kind of arts & crafts boutique for his community’s artists – Nemaska’s Arts & Crafts eBoutique will soon be up and running, operating primarily as an online retail outlet. What will distinguish this site from others is its focus on the artists and their process, as much or more than on the items for sale.  Buyers will learn the artists name, learn about their lives and their families, and will be reminded that they are purchasing something hand made by a person – not a machine. They will also come to understand the lengthy and intensive process of how each item is made – often starting with harvesting the raw materials instead of buying them at a craft store!

Josh’s belief in grassroots development is ever-present, and he continues to turn this belief into action.  Though there are several supportive tourism associations in the region, Josh wants to be sure that the people on the front-line of tourism have a clear voice and the ability to steer development in their communities. To this end, he is proposing the first of what will hopefully be many semi-annual conferences for the Tourism Officers and those who have tourism as part of their portfolio from each of the communities in Eeyou Istchee.  No affiliations or memberships – just representatives from each community tasked with creating sustainable tourism for their homes.

Nemaska is truly a charming community, with unpaved roads, pine and spruce trees everywhere, and friendly faces. I’ve been treated to fantastic meals – at their local restaurants, private homes, and at their annual summer gathering at Old Nemaska. I’ve had numerous ‘adventures’ getting to and from there by plane and on the infamous Route du Nord (come back for my next article to learn more!), and even had the privilege of watching kids show off their Halloween costumes at the elementary school!

If you’d like to visit Nemaska or learn more about what’s happening with tourism in their community, please contact Joshua Iserhoff at jiserhoff@nemaska.ca, or call him at 1-819-673-2512.