Cruising to Remote Communities

Last month I travelled to the community of Miawpukek (Conne River) on the south coast of Newfoundland. My purpose was to promote the work of the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies and recruit students to the study of business. Given that I spent four years researching the links between music, culture, and identity in this community, those I spoke to about arranging meetings and presentations were anxious to inform me that there would be a mini powwow in the community on September 25th and that I would be most welcome to join. The reason for the mini-powwow came as a surprise to me: a cruise ship would be visiting the community.

Why should a cruise ship surprise me? I thought that I had cruised on "small ships" before when the passenger capacity was 680-694, but even those ships seemed too large to anchor outside Conne River. Further, a cruise ship of that size would effectively double the number of people in the community on that day, since Miawpukek is small with about 860 residents (another 2000 band members live off-reserve). When I asked for more details, my contacts weren't able to provide any. Naturally, as a researcher, I turned to Google. In just a few seconds, I learned that the Sea Adventurer, with a capacity of 118 passengers, was circumnavigating Newfoundland and would be stopping in Conne River.

Now, I freely admit that I had no idea such small cruise ships existed. But it's pretty clear to me that they have much more unique intineraries than the larger ships. For example, the Sea Adventurer actually will cruise from the French islands of Saint Pierre et Miquelon, around western Newfoundland, and north along coastal Labrador, before ending in Nunavik!

So what does the ship look like, you ask? It's pretty cute! That's it in the distance, anchored in the harbour!

The school's drum groups and choir were invited on board for lunch, so they travelled out by zodiac. Apparently they enjoyed a BBQ and had a great time.

The passengers from the ship arrived in Miawpukek by tender and were broken into three groups to visit the Glenn John Arts & Crafts Centre, the Traditional Native Village on the walking trail in the community, and the Mi'kmaq Discovery Centre. This was no easy feat. After all, there is only one bus in Conne River — the school bus! I was told that parents on that day were asked to make arrangements to pick up their children from school so that the bus could be used by the cruise ship passengers. Now that's a "can do" attitude! The powwow grounds were prepared for a cultural presentation and at 3:00pm, all the passengers began arriving for the mini-powwow and a sampling of tarts made with local berries.

It was a beautiful day to powwow! Luck was certainly on their side, since it had rained for 8 days prior and there was rain in the forecast for the next several days.

Following welcoming remarks by Chief Mise'l Joe, the mini-powwow began. It consisted of several traditional Mi'kmaw songs played on a powwow drum, along with a few solos and small ensemble performances by singers. During a round dance and two-step, audience members were invited to participate. I've been at many powwows and danced many round dances, but it was the first time that I actually danced a two-step and it was a lot of fun!

The cruise passengers around me really enjoyed their visit to Miawpukek. And I heard one of the excursion staff exclaim, "If only every community would put on an event like this!" He assured organizers that the Sea Adventurer would return in 2014 with more passengers.

Hopefully these sorts of arrangements benefit all parties involved!