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The Cree Gathering, Grand Rapids, 2007


The Cree Gathering is an example of what the people of Grand Rapids can do to promote their community to the rest of Canada. Students are encouraged to review the following news stories for ideas on future promotion using this approach. To do so, however, they need to be critical thinkers, able to sift through information and ask questions to make sense of it, not only about the way the article is written but also about its content.

Examples of content questions are:

What organisational skills were demonstrated at this event?
Why are those skills important to community development?
Why is it important to link with other like-minded communities?
Why would you want people outside of your community to know about you?
How could events like the Cree Gathering be linked to local park development?
How can the cultural aspects of the Gathering be expanded?
What local businesses could be developed or expanded from such events?

For copyright reasons, the news stories are summaries rather than verbatim copies of the original newspaper articles. Pay attention to the footnotes because they contain comments and questions that are designed to model critical thinking through analysis, so that students can get into the habit of reading critically themselves.


  • Links to Topics and Article Summaries:


3 August 2007: “Community gears up for Cree Gathering” [Winnipeg Free Press]

Alexandra Paul reported on the 12th national Cree gathering, a traditional four-day festival to be held August 13-17 at Grand Rapids. As Paul wrote, “The gathering is held every year in a different part of the Cree traditional territory – a swath of boreal forest butting up against the tundra from James Bay to the British Columbia interior.”[1] Since one out of every five Aboriginal persons in Canada is of Cree descent, and approximately 300,000 people claim Cree heritage, the gathering has a wide appeal. About two thousand people are expected to attend. It will be a celebration of “the heritage, history and culture of the northern boreal region” and Matthew Coon-Come, a former national grand chief and James Bay Cree, is the keynote speaker.

The challenge for Chief Ovide Mercredi and the people of Misipawistik First Nation is to feed and look after its visitors in a traditional way, which means “fresh pickerel, whitefish and moose meat.” In Chief Mercredi’s view, it will take about five moose to meet the demand.[2] Interestingly, different families (Mercredis one day, Cooks the next and so on) will be responsible for feeding the gathering. In Paul’s words, “This is a camp-out, traditional style. Expect teepees and trapper’s tents along side nylon tents from Wal-Mart. They’ll bring their own frying pans and collapsible water jugs. A water truck will be on site.”

According to Paul, “There’s no agenda to rush through.” She goes on to say, “The days will be spent on traditional events designed to renew cultural activities” with a two-day powwow to end the event. 

One of the highlights of the gathering will be a relay race “by athletes called unity runners.” As Paul explains it,

Some 75 to 100 athletes must cover stints of three kilometres in this relay race from the site of the 2006 gathering near James Bay all the way to Grand Rapids. It’s much like the relay run [that] torch bearers do for the Olympics.

The first runners will put feet to pavement in Cochrane, Ont., and, over the next eight days, the race will cover 2,200 kilometres. Cochrane is the location of the nearest highway to Moose Factory, the site of the 2006 gathering.”[3]

Chief Mercredi and his community have been planning the event for over a year. The local community raised about $50,000 privately, and Chief Mercredi was able to get the Manitoba and Canadian government to put in an additional $150,000.

Paul’s article is a “good news” story from Northern Manitoba. An entire community has pulled together to host a major national event. That’s no small feat, and local organizers from the chief down are to be commended for their efforts. For more information, see this article by the Misipawistik Cree Nation. See below for a report on the event.

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6 September 2007: “Crees gather at Misipawistik Cree Nation” [The Drum, D1, 12]

James Wastasecoot of The Drum reported on the highly successful National Cree Gathering that took place at Misipawistik Cree Nation and the town of Grand Rapids in August 2007. According to the news report, 1500 people came to the gathering “from places in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba.” They travelled in many ways, too. “One hundred Unity runners, aged seven to seventy-five, spent two weeks on the road” travelling on foot to Grand Rapids from Moosonee, Ontario, the site of last year’s celebration. Eunice Beardy and her friend Charlotte Wastesicoot of Tataskweyak [Split Lake] came by car. Others, like Henry and Dave Traverse of Jackhead, arrived in fishing boats. Lucy Robinson and six youths from Misipawistik used two canoes on an 8 day journey August 4-12 from Norway House. They were accompanied by two “25 foot yawls owned by fishermen.” However they came, none was disappointed on arrival.

Miles Morriseau, coordinator of the event, said the Gathering was a success because “so many people in the community helped to make it happen.” Feeding the multitudes of visitors was just one of the challenges organizers had to meet, and meet it they did. Local families hosted meals at Grand Rapids School “where up to 300 people could have a free meal during the day,” and according to Ron Ballentyne, one of the band councillors, three times that number was fed on Mercredi day. That was no mean feat!

Everybody had a great time. Adults had an opportunity to speak Cree and celebrate their culture “on a national level,” and youths “could engage in instruction in Cree language, learning about carving, sing Cree songs and connect with their friends while on the road through an internet café that was set up at the community hall.” It was an action-packed event.

Congratulations to everyone at Misipawistk and Grand Rapids who helped make the National Gathering a success. Although the site for next year’s gathering has not been announced as yet, the excitement and good feelings generated at the 2007 Gathering will be an inspiration to next year’s host.[4]

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Click on the footnote number to return to the text:

[1] This isn’t entirely accurate, unless it is only the boreal Cree that are included in the gathering, and that seems unlikely. There is another large territory in Canada outside the boreal forest that was traditionally occupied by the Cree. Check Carl Waldman, Atlas of the North American Indian (New York: Facts on File, 1985) or some other authoritative source to find out where that region is located.

[2] Can five moose feed two thousand people? What do you think? Under what circumstances might this be possible? Has Chief Mercredi underestimated, or has Paul left out some important information here?

[3] Where could Paul have inserted the words “a day” in order to more clearly describe how the relay race was run? See if you can figure it out!

[4] What are the positive spin-offs of an event like the Cree Gathering for communities like Grand Rapids? How could such an event have a positive effect on economic development?

Last updated: April 24, 2009


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