Meeting with Indigenous Nations, sharing a canoe or trout-fishing expedition, observing bears, or collecting medicinal plants not only means living an authentic experience on sites steeped in tradition, it also means participating in the respect of our shared environment.
Studying wildlife (beavers, bears, caribou, moose, birds, etc.) is one of the most enriching activities to do in Quebec. And who better than an Inuit guide to accompany you along the floe edge in Nunavik to observe a polar bear fishing for his supper or a seal playing in the glacial waters? Or an Innu from the north coast (whose family has tracked the migration of George River caribou for generations) to help you understand the spiritual link between animal and man? More to the south, you can study black bears at one of Entreprises Essipit’s Innu outfitters (on the north coast) or beaver dams during a canoe expedition led by an Atikamekw guide from Manawan (in Mauricie).
Having lived autonomously for many generations, Indigenous people have become masters at building everything they need using elements found in nature. Today, they share their know-how in educational workshops. At cultural camp Nuuhchimi Wiinuu (in the Eeyou Istchee James Bay region), you can learn how to make paddles or snowshoes, while artists at the Aanischaaukamik Cree Cultural Institute of Oujé- Bougoumou teach you how to sculpt goose calls out of wood. And finally, the Micmac Interpretation Site of Gespeg, located in Gaspésie, hosts creative workshops that teach you how to build medicinal wheels (circles of life), talking sticks, and ropes.
Sleeping in a tent
For Indigenous people, living in nature means sleeping in a tipi, longhouse, shaputuan, or wigwam. You can treat yourself to this authentic experience by visiting, for example, the authentic Amishk sites in Lanaudière or the Ekionkiestha’ longhouse in Huron-Wendat territory, adjacent to the magnificent Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations.
Discovering Indigenous medicine
Indigenous communities have learned how to recognize and use certain types of edible, aromatic, and medicinal plants . . . all of which form an impressive pharmacopeia! Young fir shoots are used to fight cough, cattail flowers relieve burns, and sphagnum compresses and goldthread roots help cure ulcers of the mouth. Many communities are willing to guide you and organize activities allowing you to better understand the natural world of medicine. Such is the case at the Musée des Abénakis in Odanak (in the Montérégie region), where the Tolba interpretive hiking trail shares “the secrets of Mother Earth.
Enjoying outdoor adventures
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, we suggest treating yourself to a dog-sledding, snowmobiling, or hiking excursion across Nunavik’s tundra, accompanied by a seasoned Inuit guide. In Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the Algonquin community of Pikogan (Abitibiwinni First Nation) offers guided canoe expeditions on the Harricana River, which is steeped in Algonquin culture. Near Lac Mégantic (in the Eastern Townships), Hébergement Aux Cinq Sens invites you to “voyage across the living canvas that is Mother Earth” and connect with nature the Huron-Wendat way, including “walking with the spirit in the forest” to the sound of a drum. Mont Ham regional park (in the Eastern Townships) has developed a unique partnership with the Grand Conseil de la Nation Waban-Aki, creating an Abenakis space in the reception building, offering tipi accommodations, and a soon-to-be inaugurated Abenakis interpretive trail.
A Frenchwoman in Mushuau-Nipi
Laurence Gounel, an independent journalist from Paris, had never set foot in Canada and “knew nothing about Indigenous people” when she boarded a hydroplane and landed on the edge of northern Quebec’s George River last September. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I definitely wasn’t disappointed!” exclaims Gounel.
For six days, Gounel lived true moments of beauty: embarking on a boat to reel in fishing nets and returning with a large goose in her arms, fully plucked and ready to cook; getting to experience caribou hunting. Gounel goes on to say that getting to experience such things was the best way to understand how important hunting, fishing, and gathering is for Indigenous communities who take “what nature has to offer without wasting.”
Gounel also contributed to camp life, cooking with the women, listening to stories, and gathering wild berries. “Collecting water from the river reminds you how precious a resource water really is,” points out the journalist. The whole experience was also very humbling. “When Joséphine Bacon (editor’s note: Innu poet and filmmaker), who was part of our group, had a sore throat, I was sent to find samples of larch branch in the tundra to make a herbal infusion. I came back empty-handed after searching for an hour when in reality there was some right next to our camp!”
Gounel will never forget her trip: “It was the first reporting trip that had me reflecting on our way of life and my career as a tourism journalist. It brought me back to basics—writing stories that are, above all else, human.”