Chibougamau is a town in central Quebec, located on Lake Gilman. It has a population of 7,541 people (Canada 2011 Census).
Chibougamau provides services for a few smaller Cree communities surrounding it (Mistissini, Oujé-Bougoumou and Chapais). Despite Chibougamau’s remoteness, it is only about as far north as Winnipeg.
Nearby are Lake Aux Dorés and the vast Chibougamau Lake, after which the town was named. Chibougamau means “Gathering place” in Cree. The neighbouring Cree village of Oujé-Bougoumou has the same name with a more traditional Cree spelling.
Oujé-Bougoumou (Cree: ᐆᒉᐳᑯᒨ/Ûcêpukumû, akin to the name of the nearby town Chibougamau, the meaning of which has been lost) is the newest Cree community, located on the shores of Lake Opemisca, in the Eeyou Istchee of Quebec, Canada. It has a population of 725 people (as of the 2011 census).
Oujé-Bougoumou (referred to as “Oujé” by local residents) is accessible by a 25-kilometre (16 mi) paved road (gravel before 2008), linking to Route 113 not far from Chapais. Along with the neighbouring towns of Chibougamau and Chapais, Oujé-Bougoumou is served by the Chibougamau/Chapais airport located approximately 42 kilometres (26 mi) away on Route 113.
Waswanipi (Cree: ᐙᔂᓂᐲ or Wâswânipî) is a Cree community in the Eeyou Istchee territory of central Quebec, Canada, located along Route 113 and near the confluence of the Chibougamau and Waswanipi Rivers. It has a population of 1,473 people (Canada 2006 Census). Waswanipi is a compound word composed of wâswân (a place to fish at night using a torch) and -pî (lake), meaning “torch-fishing lake” but colloquially translated as “light over the water” referring to the traditional night-time fishing method of luring fish to light by using torches.
The original location of the village was on an island in Lake Waswanipi. It was the site of a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post until 1965 when the post was closed. Its residents dispersed until 1978 when the new village of Waswanipi was built about 47 km upstream the Waswanipi River from the former location.
Mistissini (Cree: ᒥᔅᑎᓯᓃ/Mistisinî meaning Big Rock) is a Cree town located in the south-east corner of the largest natural lake in Quebec, Lake Mistassini (120 km long by 30 km wide). The town is inside the boundaries of the Baie-James Municipality and is the largest Cree community, with a population of 3,427 people in 2011.
The town is about 90 km north-east from the town of Chibougamau, connected by a paved road.
Cree have lived in the Rupert River watershed area and around Lake Mistassini for centuries. French explorers and traders entered the area in the 17th century and by the second half of that century, a trading post was established on Lake Mistassini. The location of the post shifted from time to time until 1821 when the Hudson’s Bay Company established it at the present village site.
The trading post was supplied by canoe brigade from Rupert House (now Waskaganish) up the Rupert River or through Neoskweskau (a former Cree site) on the Eastmain River. The travel route shifted to the south – first through Oskelaneo when the railroad was built in 1910, and subsequently through the Lac Saint-Jean area. The road reached Mistissini in 1970.
Through time Mistissini and the various posts in the area were also known as “Maison Dorval”, “Patagoosh”, “Abatagoushe”, “Mistassini”, and “Baie-du-Poste”.