Northern Aboriginal Events as Tourist Attractions: Traditional Cree Gatherings in Northern Quebec
In the past twenty years, following a period of rapid modernization, most of the nine Cree communities of northern Quebec have begun returning to their former village sites for local summer festivals lasting a week or more. These "traditional gatherings" serve multiple purposes for local residents, allowing elders and middle-aged residents to return to places where they grew up or raised their children, fostering a greater sense of community and allowing participants to reconnect with their cultural heritage through traditional activities and foods. A few tourists also spend time at the gatherings, although the events have not become major attractions for reasons ranging from distance to lack of awareness and marketing. This article considers the viability and challenges of developing Cree gatherings as tourist attractions based on preliminary research conducted at two such gatherings in 2007, and on interviews and conversations with regional and local tourism officials. The article concludes that the gatherings do hold potential for tourism development, but that many factors must first be considered, including how increased numbers of visitors could affect the original community-based purposes of these events. More research is needed to fully understand how residents feel about the benefits and impacts of attracting more visitors to the gatherings, which were created to fulfill community cultural, historical, social, and recreational needs.
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