Mashteuiatsh. Can you pronounce it? A small community situated at a huge lake, about three hours drive north of the city of Québec. What is so special about it? Well, I guess it’s the fact that you can truly mix and mingle with the so-called “First Nations” here, native inhabitants of Québec in the east of Canada. It is worth visiting these communities and see for yourself on just where they stand between traditional traditions and modern self-confidence: “My dream is to live in the forest”, says Denise, a representative of the Ilnu tribe. Her eyes shine when she talks about the moose hunt. “It’s been a long time since I killed one myself,” she explains wistfully, speaking of the vast forest areas around Mashteuiatsh as if they were her true home, not the small town where she currently lives. Denise is also one of those people who know exactly what to do with nature at any given time of the year. “Preparing moose hide, laying out bear traps, collecting berries, harvesting the first herbs of spring … Spring is so important for us that we even call the time of late winter / early spring the fifth season of the year” Denise recalls, smiling. Together, we explore the “Musée Amérindien de Mashteuiatsh” as well as the cultural centre “Uashassit” right by lake Saint-Jean. Both cultural centres combine modern art and architecture with narratives and elements of the native inhabitants of Canada.
Yet on we go on our discovery journey. After all, three hours’ drive into the huge province of Québec amounts to virtually nothing in Canadian terms.
Our next destination goes by the no less exciting name Oujé-Bougoumou …
… another three hours drive through spectacular forests, meadows and fields, as well as small villages. On our trip, we watch huge flocks of (snow)geese rest on the open fields on their journey south. The vastness of these (mostly unspoilt) areas of countryside is balm for the soul of stressed out Europeans: We are faced with something Europe might only still harbour in the north of Finland, Sweden or Norway. Beautiful. My lovely man Georg and I find ourselves well taken care of by the lovely Laurence, who accompanies us on behalf of the organization “Quebec Aboriginal Tourism” (a really useful and informative homepage for your next travel planning in Québec). She is also the one who introduces us to Anna & Dave Bosum from “Nuuchimi Wiinuu Cree Cultural Tours“: Dave and Anna, a couple to fall in love with.
Last but not least, we head back towards Québec city, stopping at a place called La Tuque that beckons Canadian countryside charm not far from the bright lights of the city.
At the so-called “Club Odanak La Tuque“, our warm hosts have made it their business to offer their guests pure enjoyment of nature: You can go hunting or fishing, hike, sit by the campfire, listen to stories about the legends and traditions of the Atikamekw First Nations, relax. The picturesque lake right in front of the main building of the holiday apartments and hotel rooms bears the perfectly suitable name “Beaver Lake” (Lac Castor). It is also the lake we explore as part of a morning hike, hoping not to frighten up any bears! After all, they should be quite widespread here … Georg would have liked to take a photo but I’m glad that no grumbling grizzly bear has taken us by surprise, really!
Check out even more images from our culture trip through Québec here:
Disclaimer: We have been hosted on this trip around Québec by “Aboriginal Tourism Québec”. All opinions are my own.