'Extraordinary' Cree couple runs culture camp, hidden away in Quebec

For Anna Bosum, her family's Cree culture camp is about sharing her traditions and getting down to the work of reconciliation — Indigenous and non-Indigenous people learning to work together.

The camp is a March break spot for group of students from the U.S. for the past 10 years

Anna Bosum's family has a Cree culture camp sharing their culture and traditions with visitors. (Submitted by Kayla Smith)

For Anna Bosum, her family's Cree culture camp is about sharing her traditions and getting down to the work of reconciliation — Indigenous and non-Indigenous people learning to work together.

Anna and her husband David run Nuuhchimi Wiinuu Cree Culture Tours, a camp tucked into a corner of the James Bay region of Quebec near the community of Oujé-Bougoumou.

"I find that sharing of our cultures is important between non-Natives and Natives. So we will know how to work with each other in the future," said Anna. "It's also making a friendship."

Nuuhchimi Wiinuu Cree Culture Tours is a camp tucked into a corner of the James Bay region of Quebec near the community of Oujé-Bougoumou. (Susan Bell/CBC)

One of those friendships is with Paul K. Barten, an American professor from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and has been 10 years in the making.

"We use terms like conservation and sustainability, like we eat potato chips, but we never really test our understanding of them," said Barten.

"The Cree in particular, how self reliant and resourceful they are, by any standard measure it defines what conservation and sustainability really is."

Each year for the last decade he has brought a small group of students to the Bosum family camp during March break, as part of a course he created called Cree Culture, Natural Resources and Sustainability.

Before the visit to Nuuhchimi Wiinuu, the students study pre-European contact, the fur trade and the first portion of the James Bay Hydroelectric project.

After the visit, they focus on more contemporary issues faced by the Cree, including their successful resistance to the Great Whale River Hydroelectric project proposed by the Quebec government in the late 1980s, as the second phase of hydro development in Cree territory.

Each year for the last decade, a small group of students come from the University of Massachusetts Amherst to the Bosum family camp during March break. It's a part of a course Paul K. Barten created called Cree Culture, Natural Resources and Sustainability. (Submitted by Peter Westover)

"I regard these students as the agents of change," said Barten, who says he's offered the course over the 10 years through the department of environmental conservation at the university.

'Extraordinary people'

Barten says his students, many of them studying sciences, benefit greatly from meeting the Bosums.

"Everything changes once they have been so warmly welcomed. Anna and David are extraordinary people," said Barten, who says he still learns as much as the students.

"In another 20 years, I'll be as smart as a 10-year-old Cree child," joked Barten.

The students are exposed to a whole range of traditional activities while at the camp, from crafts and snowshoe making to checking traps, preparing a moose hide and setting a Cree winter fish net.

David Bosum, Anna's husband, says the visitors really enjoy being exposed to what he learned growing up in the bush.

"This is why they came here. They want to see it," said David, who says he also learns from the visitors.

"Some of them they trap and they share it with me so I also learn from them."