(Photo credit from Museums Ontario.)
One of the reasons that Missanabie Cree First Nation (MCFN) have taken the lead in getting the Bear Train on track is to develop their own tourism products. They see the Algoma passenger train service as the ideal way in which to attract and transport tourists to Indigenous tourism destinations in MCFN’s traditional territory, thus both acknowledging and honouring their historical ties to the railway itself. Tourists love taking remote trains. An event was planned in 2013 to demonstrate the kinds of Indigenous tourism experiences that MCFN would like to develop. Linda Savory Gordon (CAPT board member) states:
“Chelsie Parayko, a MCFN member and an Algoma U student, in a summer job with the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT), planned ‘The Journey on the Iron Horse Train Event’. The Missanabie Cree used to call the train “the iron horse”. Shirley Horn of MCFN, former Shingwauk residential school student, Algoma University BA (Fine Arts) graduate and current Chancellor of Algoma University, suggested that we call the Indigenous train event on the ACR “The Journey on the Iron Horse.” This Indigenous culture-based tourism event was conceived by Chelsie Parayko. The plan is for participants to take the passenger train from the Sault to Hawk-Junction, where they would be picked up by vans and shuttled by road to Island View Camp in Missanabie. At Island View, an MCFN caterer would prepare meals using local Cree recipes and foods. The program would include talks by an MCFN elder about the history and culture of MCFN and a display of work by MCFN artists. A group of young Cree drummers from a neighbouring First Nation would do a drumming. The participants would stay overnight at Island View. The next day they would be taken by van or coach back to Hawk Junction, through Wawa to Lake Superior. During the return trip on highway 17 along the Lake Superior coast the participants would visit Michipicoten, Old Woman Bay, the Agawa Pictographs and the Visitors Centre in Lake Superior Provincial Park. This is one of many Indigenous tourism products that MCFN could develop and offer from the Bear passenger train. “
This tourism product encompasses a lot of the elements that the Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban initiative holds dear in our mission and values, including economic development and job opportunities for Missanabie Cree people, as well as traditional Indigenous teaching and cross-cultural learning, primarily about the traditional territory as well as the reality of residential schooling for the Missanabie Cree. Moreover, the incorporation of traditional Cree food and Cree drumming/music allows for an even greater cross-cultural and educational experience for participants. Not to mention, Island View Camp and Missanabie in general are beautiful locations to really get in touch with nature – gorgeous sunsets, lush, green trees, and bountiful lakes to swim and fish in!
For more information on Missanabie Cree First Nation, click here.
For more information on Island View Camp, click here.
You can also learn more about the Bear Train initiative here.