Wachiya/Welcome/Bienvenue

But what affects the traveler is the hospitality he meets, the warm and generous welcome everywhere. That is a frontier specialty. Its roots are in our need of it; we need it most where men live far apart. And near the wilderness it grows luxuriant.

~ Rockwell Kent, from the book Salamina

Before I began last month’s journey, I had expectations about the terrain and the scenery I would encounter. What came as a pleasant surprise was the human element of the adventure. Never before have I arrived in a distant community and been so warmly welcomed by those who live there. If you’re a fan of traveling to places where the people are friendly, eager to speak with you and willing to help you in any way that they can, I highly recommend a visit to the Cree Nation of Chisasibi.

(Roadside Poutine: When visiting Chisasibi, be sure to enjoy a generous serving of Chef Clayton’s delicious poutine. Just look for the big red chip wagon.)

My deep thanks go out to all of the residents of Chisasibi who made my stay so memorable.

And I’d like to give special thanks to Clayton and Reggie, who told me a great deal about life in Chisasibi. To Edward, the local Tourism Coordinator, who was very helpful both before and during my visit, providing information about the places I wanted to see and the services I would need. To Louie-Rene and the excellent staff of Auberge Maanitaaukimikw, for a welcoming and comfortable stay. All of my aurora photographs were captured in the Auberge’s back yard, right on the La Grande River. And to Jerry at Long Point Adventures; if you’re interested in a more rustic experience, stay in one of his cabins or pitch your tent right on the cold, hard stone of the Canadian Shield, surrounded by the softly-lapping waters of James Bay.

On my final night in the area, I was staying at the Auberge along with a nice group of visitors whose work centers on welcoming people to the region—business owners and representatives of organizations such as Voyages Eeyou Istchee Baie-James, COTA (Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association), and Tourisme Baie-James. As it happens, some of these folks work alongside the very people who were so helpful to me by telephone and email during the summer, when I began planning this adventure.

We had a great time watching the night sky together and talking about life in northern Quebec. My sincere thanks go out to this group for their hospitality and kindness, for giving me so much useful information about the region, and for being so accommodating with my inability to converse en français.

If you would like to experience the James Bay area someday, be sure to contact these fine people. They will be happy to provide you with all of the information you’ll need for wonderful adventure.

Northern Life

Greetings from the Cree Nation of Chisasibi, on the southern bank of the La Grande River in northern Quebec. Was it worth the 1500-mile drive…?

Excerpt from our group conversation:

“Hurry! The orange moon is rising above the river.”
“Ooooh! The northern lights are starting!”
“Ack! Which should we shoot first?”
“Can I squeeze them both into one frame…maybe…?”

I’ve been lucky enough to see and shoot the northern lights in 2013, 2016 and 2019. Guess I know when to schedule my next northern adventure.

Below, Mireille watches the lights. I was especially happy to have enjoyed this event with a group of people who, despite living in northern Quebec, have not become jaded by these displays and were just as fascinated with the show as I was.

Looking up at the stars through the mikiwahp poles. The shot below was Isabelle’s idea. (Thank you!) The poles in the upper part of the frame are illuminated by moonlight, the others by house lights. A shooting star can be seen in the upper right.

All 25 photos from this night can be viewed in this gallery, where you can also purchase prints.