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ᐙᔅᑳᐦᐄᑲᓂᔥ (Cree)
cree community
Waskaganish Airport
Etymology: Little House
Waskaganish is located in Quebec
Coordinates: 51°29′N 78°45′W / 51.48°N 78.75°W / 51.48; -78.75Coordinates: 51°29′N 78°45′W / 51.48°N 78.75°W / 51.48; -78.75
Country  Canada
Province  Quebec
Region Northern Quebec
TE Eeyou Istchee
 • Type Cree reserved land
 • Chief Darlene Cheechoo
 • Land 502.26 km2 (193.92 sq mi)
Population (2016 Census)[1]
 • Total 2,196
 • Density 4.4/km2 (11/sq mi)
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Postal Code J0M 1R0
Area code(s) 819
Website www.waskaganish.ca

Waskaganish (Cree: ᐙᔅᑳᐦᐄᑲᓂᔥ/Wâskâhîkaniš, Little House) is a Cree community of over 2,200 people at the mouth of the Rupert River on the south-east shore of James Bay in the Eeyou Istchee territory in Northern Quebec, Canada. Formerly called Fort Rupert, the location is one of three original Hudson's Bay Company posts on James Bay, the other two being Fort Albany on the west shore, and Moose Factory on the south.

Waskaganish has had road access to the James Bay Road since 2001. It has two school facilities: Ecole Annie Whiskeychan Memorial Elementary School (primary) and Ecole Wiinibekuu School (secondary).



According to the Waskaganish First Nation official website,

Human presence in the James Bay area is believed to have begun some 7000 years ago, although the earliest artefacts recently found in the region of Waskaganish date to some 3000-3500 years old. Aboriginal hunting groups migrated from the south and west, first as seasonal hunting parties and later permanently establishing themselves in what is known as Eeyou Istchee (the Cree traditional territory in eastern James Bay). Although populations fluctuated over the centuries, the pre-contact period is characterized by a subsistence economy based on hunting and trapping of small and large game, fishing and seasonal gathering.[2]

According to a study on aboriginal fur trade,[3] Cree hunting groups of three or four families moved from traditional seasonal fishing and hunting camps. They often stayed close to watersheds.[2][3][4]

In 2012, a local resident of Waskaganish found rough-looking stone blades and arrowheads at the Saunders Goose Pond on Waskaganish territory that could be between 4,000 and 7,000 years old.[5] In 2012 archaeological teams were digging near the Smokey Hill rapids about 20 kilometres from Waskaganish, a traditional weir fishing site where families have gathered annually in late summer for generations. Prior to construction of the hydroelectric project and the partial diversion of the Rupert River which exposed the shoreline, the natural current forced fish into the weir.[6] After the diversion, scoop-net fishing pools were unusable. By 2011 there were larger concentrations of cisco at Gravel Pit, they were smaller than previous years.[7]

Pre-contact inter-tribal trade routes[edit]

Pre-contact trade relations between Cree and other aboriginal groups were "mostly centered on trading moose hides for ‘cereals’, ‘indian corn’, and tobacco."[8] There was a pre-contact intertribal Cree-Montagnais trade route from Waskaganish to the Saint Lawrence River via Rupert River and the Saguenay River.[9]

Henry Hudson 1611[edit]

It was hypothesized [10] that Henry Hudson's fateful over-wintering in 1610-1611 was in Waskaganish territory.[10] In 1610 Hudson had reached what is now the Hudson Strait but by November his new ship, Discovery, had become icebound in James Bay and they were forced to move ashore.

A map of Hudson's fourth voyage

The Trading Post[edit]

On 29 September 1668, Nonsuch, under the command of Zachariah Gillam and guided by Médard des Groseilliers, anchored at the mouth of the Rupert River. In 1668, Rupert House or Charles Fort at Waskaganish on the south bank of Rupert River, was established as the first trading post, two years before the Hudson's Bay Company was formed. In October 1669 they returned to England with a load of beaver pelts they had acquired from the Cree people in exchange for good such as knives, kettles, beads, needles and blankets. The post was occupied sporadically thereafter and new buildings were added. By the 1680s there were a string of trading posts on James Bay Cree traditional land and the Cree had an extensive trade alliance with the HBC. As middlemen, the Cree hunters, trappers and traders collected furs from other First Nations in the interior.[11] As the first trappers with the HBC, the Cree became the homeguard for the HBC, helping with the supply and maintenance of the trading posts in winter.[9]

In 1670-1679 Charles Bayly was governor. In 1672 Charles Albanel reached Charles Fort from the Saint Lawrence. Finding all the English out hunting, he waited a week, left a letter, and returned to Quebec. In 1674 Albanel reached the fort again and was sent to England. In 1681, fearing French attack, a new Charles Fort was built downstream on a hill top. In 1686 the French captured the fort and burned it. In 1688 the English tried to re-establish the fort, but D'Iberville captured it again, this time from the sea. For the next century the east coast of James Bay was visited by HBC ships from Fort Albany, Ontario.

In 1776 the site was re-occupied and named Rupert House or Rupert Fort or Fort Rupert. From then until the early 1900s, Fort Rupert was an important trading location, supplying inland communities and other posts via the Rupert River with regular canoe brigades. In 1991 the archaeologist J. V. Chism[12] found the sites of the two Charles Forts. The first was at the site of the new tourist lodge (Auberge Kanio Kashee Lodge) and the second at the Anglican church.[13][14]

Manager's house and other buildings, Rupert House, circa 1921


The James Bay Project impacts Waskaganish.[further explanation needed]

Billy Diamond was the chief of the Waskaganish Cree starting in 1970.[15]

Filmmaker Neil Diamond was born and raised in Waskaganish. His experiences as a child there, watching Westerns with other local children in the church basement, inspired him to make Reel Injun.[16][17]


The Cree School Board operates two schools in Waskaganish: Annie Whiskeychan Memorial Elementary School (ᐋᓃ ᐧᐄᔥᑲᒑᓐ ᒋᔅᑯᑕᒫᒉᐅᑲᒥᒄ) and Wiinibekuu School (ᐧᐄᓂᐯᑰ ᒋᔅᑯᑕᒫᒉᐅᑲᒥᒄ).[18][19]


  1. ^ a b "Census Profile, 2016 Census - Waskaganish, Terres réservées aux Cris [Census subdivision], Quebec and Nord-du-Québec, Census division [Census division], Quebec". Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2018-03-03. 
  2. ^ a b "Ancient Territorial Occupation". Waskaganish, Quebec: The Crees of Waskaganish First Nation. 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Morantz, T. (1984). "Economic and Social Accommodations of the James Bay Inlanders to the Fur Trade". In Kretch, Shepard. The Subarctic Fur Trade: Native Social and Economic Adaptations. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. pp. 55–80. ISBN 9780774803748 – via Google Books. 
  4. ^ Lévesque, C.; N. Bernard (2001). "Histoire et changement social chez les Cris de la Baie James" [History and social change of James Bay Cree]. In G. Duhaime. Atlas Historique du Québec [Historical Atlas of Quebec]. Le Nord: Habitants et mutations (The North: inhabitants and transitions) (in French). 5. Québec: University of Laval Press. pp. 54–68. ISBN 2-7637-7804-6. 
  5. ^ "Artifacts in northern Quebec could be 7,000 years old: Archaeologists start digging after finding rare arrowheads on Waskaganish territory". CBC News. 25 August 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "Waskaganish". Cree Culture. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "Rupert Bay cisco migrate up the river for the first time since diversion" (PDF). Hydro Quebec. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Hunt, G.T. (1935). The Wars of the Iroquois: A Study in Inter-tribal Trade Relations: 1609 - 1684. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press. 
  9. ^ a b Inuit Heritage Trust IHT (2008). "Inuit-First Nations". Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  10. ^ a b 2000-2013 Brian Back (2013). "Waskaganish". Cree communities of Quebec. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  11. ^ "First Nations in Canada". AADNC. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  12. ^ Chism, J. (1988). 17th Century Events at Waskaganish : A Preliminary Historical Report within an Archeological Perspective (PDF). 
  13. ^ Elizabeth Browne Losey (1999). "Let Then Be Remembered: The Story of the Fur Trade Forts". 
  14. ^ Arthur S Morton (c. 1950). "A History of the Canadian West to 1870-7". 
  15. ^ "Billy Diamond". Power To Change. Archived from the original on 2008-01-27. Retrieved 2008-02-03. I became chief of our Cree community when I was 21. ... Four years later I became the first Grand Chief of the Cree Grand Council. I used this position to help my people develop. We modernized the villages, built housing and schools and encouraged health and economic development. I was very successful in this position. But like all successes, it had its drawbacks, especially in my personal life. 
  16. ^ Skenderis, Stephanie (18 February 2010). "A reel shame". CBC News. Retrieved 3 December 2010. 
  17. ^ Koepke, Melora (18 March 2010). "The real Neil Diamond". Hour magazine. Retrieved 3 December 2010. 
  18. ^ "Annie Whiskeychan Memorial School." Cree School Board. Retrieved on September 23, 2017.
  19. ^ "École Wiinibekuu School and École Annie Whiskeychan Memorial Elementary School ." Cree School Board. Retrieved on September 23, 2017.

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