With one foot in the future of tourism and the other back in the history of the Moose Cree, Randy Kakpasheisit of the MoCreebec Council First Nation spearheaded the development of Cree Village Ecolodge on the banks of the Moose River on Moose Factory Island. He planned to target the eco-tourist with an environmentally friendly lodge that would combine Cree values and their love of the land with their unique history.
Architecturally designed, by Clive Levitt of Toronto, this award winning northern lodge is built to withstand a temperature of minus 40 F. Its cathedral-like great room, lined in cedar and framed by giant pine poles with a view of the ever-changing Moose River has become the focal point. Besides its eco friendly structure, sustainable materials such as wool carpeting and blankets, organic cotton sheets and towels, slatted birch blinds, natural ventilation, ceiling fans, low level fluorescent bulbs, whimsical lampshades of recycled steel are used. From the kitchen - free trade coffee is served
Greg Williams, the lodge manager, commented, "Our occupancy was up every year. We had more
tourists from Europe and more business people staying overnight on the island. Then disaster struck." He related how an ice jam on the Moose River broke up at midnight on April 24, 2008. The backed up water exploded into the lodge, flooded the basement, the furnace, the electrical system, carpets and tiled floors and the painted surfaces. "I would rather have a fire, you can assess the damage. When water seeps into the foundation it creates all kinds of unknown problems. We were closed for nearly a year to rebuild. To keep our eco designation in the International Tourism Society," he added, "we searched out new floor material for the great room. Ceramic was no longer a recognized eco product; we used granite. We moved the furnace to a small building beside the lodge. Then we dealt with the foundation."
"But," Williams added, "Our worst problem was finding new staff. Almost everyone had other jobs or left the industry." His only answer - to hire and retrain servers, cleaners and administrative assistants from Moose Factory's small local population.
The lodge reopened in spring 2009, with a high-end chef, and had one of its best seasons ever. Plans are under way to start a culinary program with a mainland community college during the shoulder season. "We have the chef and the accommodation; the students will have the chance to work in a real kitchen. Running a lodge up here is more than a job; it is a sense of accomplishment and a connection to the island." added Williams.
Katherine McIntyre is interested in Canadian and Central American tourism, aboriginal tourism, aboriginal art, architecture, the Canadian north, hotels and inns. She has written for Canadian History Magazine (formerly the Beaver), Country Connections, Windspeaker, The Revue (Guatemala), Heritage Canada, Medical Post, Lighthouse Digest, and Lodging News. She lives in Toronto.
Cree Village Ecolodge
The Moose River basin has been home to the Moose Cree for thousands of years. The Cree call their home Mushkegowuk. In many ways, this is the economic birthplace of modern Canada, a rich ecosystem that includes, in part, a teeming wildlife population of black bear, woodland caribou, marten, beaver, wolf, fox, lynx, moose, sturgeon, pickerel, northern pike, whitefish, and numerous varieties of trout. Due to the rich animal life, in the 1600's the Hudson Bay Company incorporated what are now two of the oldest existing communities in Ontario in Moose Factory and Fort Albany. This area was the economic engine that drove the Hudson Bay Company expansion west. This area of Northern Ontario continues to be one of the few places in our country where traditional practices and lifestyle continues to exist in harmony with contemporary and responsible harvesting and recreational use. --