Wemindji is part of the Cree Aboriginal nation. The first language spoken in Wemindji is Cree. Due to the historical contact with Hudson's Bay Company, many Cree people speak English as a second language.
Wemindji is a fairly new community comprising Cree families who used to live at the Paakumshumwashtikw trading post (in Cree, in French it was known as Vieux-Comptoir River, or its English equivalent "Old Factory") This trading post was founded in the 17th century and was alternately under British or French control. In 1959 the community was relocated about 45 km north to its present location (where Wemindji is now).
Wemindji (Cree for "red ochre mountain") gets its name from the red pigment found in the hills surrounding it. It has also been known in French as "Nouveau-Comptoir".
The Cree Nation of Wemindji is one of the 9 communities under the [James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement] signed on 1975 by the Cree, Inuit, Quebec Government and Federal Government. The Crees got on a legal injunction to make an agreement on the project of hydro-electric development because the Quebec government and Hydro-Quebec failed to recognized the Cree rights to their land.
In 1975, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement between the Government of Canada and the indigenous people in Canada was the first leading agreement since the numbered treaties of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Under the agreement, the Aboriginal people traded their rights and territorial interests for different rights and benefits. The Aboriginal people were allowed to take charge in their local and regional government, the creation of their own health and school boards, measures for economic and community development, special regimes for police and justice and environmental protection.
The agreement included limitations on water levels and a remedial works corporation for social, environmental damages, and relocation of the first dam. In the agreement, the land was divided into three categories. The first category of land is controlled mainly by the residents in and around the Aboriginal communities. The second category known as Crown Land is used as hunting, fishing, and trapping territories shared between the Cree and Inuit. Lastly, the third category of land is used for traditional hunting and harvesting which was designated exclusively for Aboriginal people to use.
Culture and traditions
Cree have always identified themselves as "Iyiyuuch" which means "the people". The Cree have continued practising their traditional way of hunting, trapping and fishing. Parts of Wemindji's populations still lives off the land year round.
Wemindji is accessible via the James Bay Road. The gravel access road to Wemindji is at kilometer 518 of the James Bay Road (518 km north of Matagami). Once on the gravel road, it is 96 km to Wemindji. There are no services until you reach the village of Wemindji.
As of 2009, the gravel road is in good repair and is regularly graded. There are a few areas of washboard but not many. The road is passable by and is regularly used by passenger vehicles.
Fuel is available 24 hours a day on the James Bay Road at Matagami, QC (km 0), at Relais Routier (km 381) and at Radisson (km 620). Fuel is also available in Wemindji at Sibi Gas Station and Hardware Store, however it may not be available 24 hours a day.
The James Bay Road is very remote. Make sure your vehicle is in good repair. Be prepared to deal with black bear and insects, which are common throughout the northland.
- 1 Wemindji Airport (YNC IATA). Served by Air Creebec with connections to Montreal-Trudeau, Val-d'Or, Chibougamau, Chisasibi, Eastmain, Kuujjuarapik, Nemaska, and Waskaganish.
Wemindji is a small community surrounded by a vast wilderness. It is on Paint Hills Bay about 5 km from the open water of James Bay, and is surrounded with many lakes, inlets, bays and islands. During the summer, canoes and motorboats are the most common way to access the surrounding area. During winter, snowmobiles are the usual means of transport.
Canoes and kayaks are available for rent, and outboard motor powered freighter canoes with guide are available for longer excursions.
Canoe and kayak launch sites are available. There is a trailer boat launch for light vessels available in Wemindji. There are many boating opportunities in the protected chain of lakes around Wemindji. Boaters are cautioned that conditions on James Bay may change rapidly, and that the open waters of James Bay must be navigated with offshore ocean skills. The maze of islands can be confusing, so a GPS navigation system is recommended. It is recommended to speak to locals about your boating plans so that if you go missing, they will know to look for you.
Mawabou Taxi is available in the village.
- Guided motorboat excursions, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. July to early September. Excursions to James Bay and Paint Hills Island, or any of the many islands surrounding Wemindji, where wildlife can be observed. 2-hour tour $219 per person, 3-hour tour $310 per person.
- Wemindji Pow Wow. Second weekend in August. Drumming and dancing.
- Shammy Adventures, 8 Visitor Drive, ☏ . The traditional site offers various cultural and adventurous activities in summer/fall and winter, like canoing and snowsoeing. Learn and exchange on Cree culture and its ecological knowledge of our world. Introduction to fishing, medicinal plants, identification of fauna and flora, furs, handicrafts, craft workshop, preparation and tasting of traditional dishes, quad and motor boat ride on the Opinaca River, canoe ride on Lake Akukameskasich, tales & legends around the campfire in the tipi, hiking, canoe expedition on lakes and rivers. Traditional Cree tents with fire in the wood stove (spring, autumn, winter).
- Kayak and canoe rentals, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. July to early September. Life jackets and paddles included. 2 hr $25-30, 3-hr $35-40, full day $55-60.
- Explore a deserted island
- Learn about how to build a Cree tipi shelter
- Look at the freighter canoes
- Observe northern plant, animal and sea life
- Walk the rocky coastline
- Mountain bike the singletrack and two-track trails around the village
- Community Store, Chemin de Wemindji at Stone.
- Sibi Hardware Store, Maquatua Road at Goose Road.
- Bank of Montreal, Maquatua Road at Taewich Road.
- Krisanne's Restaurant.
- Powerplay Restaurant.
- M&M's Restaurant.
- Smiley's Restaurant, 17 Hilltop, ☏ .
Please respect that Wemindji is a dry community. No alcohol is legally available.
- Maquatua Inn, 22 Gilpin (at the mouth of the Maquatua River), ☏ . Hotel. Dining room open nightly. 30 modern rooms are available, all with private bath, fridge and microwave. The hotel also has a boutique filled with arts and crafts made by local artists.
- Kookum Sarah's Bed & Breakfast, 15 Riverside, ☏ .
There are primitive, informal camping locations available just outside of the Village. You may be able to park an RV near the freighter canoe launch. It is best to ask if it is OK at the Police station or the village offices. There is a large construction site or gravel pit about 10 km east of the village which would be a good place to park an RV, although it is somewhat far from the village. There is a lot of room there, it is all flat gravel. Ask at the village about what is the best place to park. There are no water or dump station services, you will need to be self contained.
If you are tenting, take a good groundcloth to protect your tent and sleeping pad to protect your back, most good camp areas are gravel.
Throughout the James Bay Region, it is common to park the vehicle just off the road and camp. There are a number of quarries, logging roads and access roads that can be used with care to find good sites for tenting and RV parking off of the main road.
- Wemindji Police Force, ☏ .
- Ambulance, ☏ .
- Fire Department, ☏ .
- Clinic, ☏ .
- Dental Services, ☏ .
The nearest villages by road are Radisson (198 km), Chisasibi (268 km), and Eastmain (366 km).