History of Waskaganish

A brief history of the Crees of Waskaganish First Nation

Welcome to our history section. Our community has a rich culture and heritage, being the oldest Cree community in the James Bay and an important historical site for the Cree Nation and Quebec. Our ancestors have travelled the land of Eeyou Istchee for generations and we are proud to maintain and enhance this legacy. As the birthplace of the Hudson Bay Company and the British fur trade in western Canada, Waskaganish stands at complex intersections between people, places and things that have helped create a nation. Our people have been and continue to be innovative actors deeply rooted in our local culture while looking towards global changes and opportunities that link us all.

Ancient Territorial Occupation

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.

Initial European Contact

Between 1610 and 1632, five European expeditions seeking a Northwest Passage to the Pacific reached the Hudson and James bays where they recorded one face-to-face encounter with most probably an Inuit individual.

The Fur Trade

In 1685, Fort Charles is captured by the French and is renamed Fort Saint-Jacques. It remains under French control until the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) grants all sole trading rights through the James Bay to HBC.

Arrival of Missionaries and Christianization

During the later part of the 1800s the first missionaries came to the James Bay area, approximately 160 years after Albanel spied on the British at Waskaganish. Methodist minister George Barnley was the first missionary that visited ...

Beaver Reserves

The dawn of the 20th Century marked a dark period for the Cree. Famine struck Waskaganish and many bush camps in 1882, when starvation was reported at Rupert House. The causes are varied but most significant was a low natural ...

Industrialization of the Region

The radio first arrived at Rupert House in 1922 and the first transmission was received form Presbyterian Reverend Hugh Kerr from Pittsburgh. The confirmation from Watt arrived by dogsled a month later.

The James Bay Project

In the late 1950s and beginning of 1960s, industrialization in the southern regions began to have a significant impact on the Cree, the animal populations on which they depended, and the ecosystems in the region

Contemporary Community Life

Over the following 35 years since the signing of the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), the Cree Nation has continued to assert their rights and maintain a vibrant culture and society.

Waskaganish 350th Anniversary

Waskaganish 350th Anniversary Celebrations 2018 – Winter  – Spring – Summer – Fall A small town with a big history Many towns and cities are proud of their history, and rightly so. However, our small Cree community on the shore of James Bay is a town that has made history for not only its people,…

Our people have left an important mark on the history of Quebec and Canada

Guided by the wisdom of our ancestors, the Waskaganish eenou have left an important mark on the history of Quebec and Canada. We have developed and managed our ecosystems for centuries, first as knowledgeable hunters and later as game wardens responsible for the regeneration of beavers almost wiped out by the fur trade. Leaders born and raised in our community have negotiated the first contemporary land claim agreement in the history of Canada (the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement) and have actively participated on the international scene to promote and protect Aboriginal rights, including the drafting of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We hope that you will find our past and our present just as inspiring and rich as we do, and while brief, we hope that this section will engage your imagination and entice you to visit and personally experience our contemporary Cree way of life in the bush or in the community.

Historic Photos

Visit our photo gallery to view historic and contemporay photos from the Waskaganish territory.