Friend Requests in the Canadian Outback
By Chris Epting

Traveling through remote areas of Cree territory in northern Canada, a spotty internet signal is still enough to change how communities communicate and raise their tourism profile.

North Canada rocks

Within just a couple of hours after pulling in the fish, a lot of it was being smoked outside over a traditional fire while the Walleye was almost immediately filleted and fried up for lunch. As I sat there eating my fish, I noticed that Anna was on her iPhone by the window, where you could actually get a bit of service. I asked her what she was looking at on her phone. She showed me the picture of the fish she had posted on Facebook.

“57 likes,” she smiled. “This is a great way for us to show the outside world how we live here.”

When you visit any well-developed tourist destination, for the most part you know what to expect. If you’ve done your homework, then you probably approach this type of visit with certain expectations. Not that surprises can’t occur or new discoveries and adventures won’t emerge, but in general, you know what you’re getting into.

Another more recent phenomenon when mapping out an excursion or getaway is to research whether there will be any kind of cellular service or internet connection. Cynics may scoff at that idea, holding on to the notion that getting away truly means getting away. But we live in a world today where it becomes harder and harder to truly cut off all communication. Many require at least some sort of electronic tether to home or office.

“What’s the service like out there?” I asked our pilot, as our 19-year-old daughter and I boarded a plane from Montreal to a little speck on the map a few hundred miles north called Chibougamou. 

He chuckled and said, “Spotty, if anything.”

Well that’s okay. At least we knew. That’s the thing: if you’re not expecting it, then at least you know you will be out of touch for some period of time and you can plan against it.

On this trip to a newly emerging tourist destination, however, I learned that those technological concerns do not just apply to the traveler.

Home of the Cree

Eeyou Istchee is the traditional territory and homeland of the Cree of northern Quebec. Situated in the James Bay area, the Cree Nation is comprised of 15,000 people in nine communities spread out over 350,000 square kilometers. Up until now, they have not been accustomed to receiving many visitors. The Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association (COTA) was established by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) in 1975, one of Canada's first modern land claims settlements. COTA’s mission is to implement a vision for a world-class sustainable tourism industry and support high quality tourism products and services. In 2007, COTA created Eeyou Istchee Tourism as a separate organization to play the role of a regional tourism association as defined by the Quebec government.

And they know how to present themselves in print: “Eeyou Istchee stands apart from other travel destinations thanks to its beauty, varied land and waterscapes, and broad range of year-round activities. Eeyou Istchee is boreal forests, rugged coasts, crystal clear freshwater lakes, tundra, taiga, vast wilderness, and magical Northern Lights - which all come together for an unparalleled travel and vacation experience.”

Along with a flair for descriptive prose, their stated goals are simple:

Also in this issue:

Books from the Author:

Hello It's Me

Buy Hello It's Me at your local bookstore, or get it online here:
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Birthplace Book

Buy The Birthplace Book at your local bookstore, or get it online here:
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Led Zeppelin Crashed Here

Buy Led Zeppelin Crashed Here at your local bookstore, or get it online here:
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