Letters to the editor
23, 2001 marked a very important day in the lives of the James Bay Cree.
This was the day that the Cree leadership signed an agreement in principle
with the Quebec Government. This is the shocking news I (a
Mistissini Cree) received on the morning the agreement was signed.
The first thought that came to my head was, this can’t be true, our
leaders wouldn’t sign any form of agreement without consenting us(the
people) first. However, as the morning went on and as the news kept
coming in, I learned that they had indeed signed an agreement with the
government!! Our leaders tried to justify their actions by saying
that they felt it was within their power to make this kind of decision
without seeking the consent of the people that put them in leadership, us.
I understand that this agreement was one made in principle, but it put our
nation a lot closer to signing it without knowing it. The next thing
I asked myself is why our leaders would try to become partners with a
government that has mistreated our people since the day they set foot on
our land? The Grand Chief, Ted Moses, says that we must put the past
behind us and not dwell on it, also, that we must learn to trust. I
was always of the opinion that we as individuals and as a people learn
from the past, which is why we can’t put it behind us. The past is
a vital part of our everyday lives, without it we would trust anyone
regardless of what they did to us in the past. The government has
given us many reasons not to trust them, I have not seen them give us any
reasons why we should trust them.
October 30, 2001 the Grand Chief along with John Longchap and other chiefs
met with the people of Mistissini. I was fortunate enough to attend
this meeting, however my brother, my sisters, my cousins and many friends
could not attend because they are down south pursuing post secondary
education. They too are being affected by this agreement and yet
they can’t represent their views because of the limited time we have to
sign the agreement. I hope that this letter can provide them with a
glimpse of what took place in Mistissini. The feeling I got from the
meeting was that our leaders had already consented to the agreement and
all it’s content, and now they were trying to convince us to do the
same. If you look at it from my point of view, you will see the
government and our leaders on the same side because they both want us to
consent to the agreement. On the other side is us, the people who are
largely against the agreement. I say largely because the majority of
the people I heard speak are against it or they need more time to
consider. I thought that our leaders represented the views of the
people and not just their own. While I was discussing the meeting in
Mistissini with other people, we talked about how the Grand Chief was
talking about his hunting ground that he inherited from his father.
Part of his land is to be flooded in the proposed EM1/Rupert Diversion
Project and he said he is willing to make that sacrifice for our future
generations. If the Grand Chief is to receive a substantial monetary
compensation for the flooding of his land, wouldn’t this put him in a
conflict of interest in signing the agreement?
have studied the documents surrounding this agreement and I also saw the
fancy presentation at the public meeting, none of them has come close to
convincing me that the Crees should sign the agreement. Actually,
they have done the exact opposite. The views that I have expressed
in this letter are of a moral nature, feelings and questions that came
from the heart. I have also considered the technical aspect of the
agreement and that too leaves many questions unanswered, I am confident
that these issues can be addressed by Crees that are studying in the
fields related to this agreement. I can see that this agreement has
too many holes in it for the Crees to sign it; which brings me to my final
can’t our leaders see this agreement for what it really is... a bad one!
Grand Chief Ted Moses & the
Council of the Crees of Quebec
following concerns have come to my attention, in light of the situation
that the Crees of Eeyou Estchee are facing at this time. Finding the right
solutions, which will benefit all aspects involved within this dilemma,
not just the people but also including the land and what that has offered
to our people since time immemorial. Any decision will greatly affect the
future of us as a nation, but only the right decision will help us as a
people in knowing where we have originated from, which is the land. I hope
by making you aware of my concerns that it may assist you to look back and
consider the overwhelming situation that befalls the environment around
our people at this present time. Maybe these words will help you see the
cause for my concerns as a Cree, speaking for Eeyou Estchee.
At the Natural Resources Assembly there were some statements and
resolutions from the people. Did they mean anything?
In your acceptance speech as Grand Chief to the people; you said that no
trapper has the right to sell his or her trapline, going back to our
teaching that we belong to the land.
Values of our culture that we are one with the land, that we cannot own
what was given to us by chissamendo and that we certainly don’t have the
right to sell it at any price.
Are we being played into tying our hands and becoming part of an election
process by the Quebec Government and to have separation become a reality?
Crees have always had a structure of democracy, which was always there in
the history of our people, and it is inclusion. When coming to decisions
that concerned the people, all the people were included.
Where is the good faith in the agreement, by the Government of Quebec?
They have always dictated what they wanted and have always told us what we
can do or say on how we live our lives. It has come to a breaking point
for our future to live as a recognized people that are the original people
of Eeyou Estchee.
The Innu Nation has asked the Cree, Inuit, and Naskapi to stand for their
own status as original people of this land. Making our own Government as
Nation-to-Nation can never happen with Quebec because in history there was
only one Nation which our ancestors made treaties with and that was the
The Quebec Government and Hydro have always given us monies but have
always had the last word on where and how we can spend it. If we do not
follow the rules, they stop giving and our people suffer.
Where are the guarantees on the continuation that the monies will keep
coming for the next 50 years after they have gotten what they wanted? I am
speaking on the changes to the Governments and the promises by the Quebec
Government that they will continue to give us the monies for the duration
of the Agreement.
Sections 2.1 and 25.2 of the J.B.N.Q.A. have released and ceded all our
rights as Cree people and why are we confirming what was written by
entering into another Complimentary Agreement? Are we saying that we agree
with what written in the J.B.N.Q.A?
If the J.B.N.Q.A. is a modern day treaty as it is taken for granted, why
was it not translated into Cree for our elders and our people?
Why was our youth not educated and told of the true meaning in the
contents of what the history of the J.B.N.Q.A. really states?
The J.B.N.Q.A. didn’t work because it had no implementation agreement on
specifying who was to carry out what was written in the Agreement. What
will happen to this Agreement in principal? It has no implementation
agreement, are our children going to come back to the table in 25 years
like Romeo Saganash has pointed out in his statement?
I believe that the reason we had the court cases against the Government
was to show them that we have rights, which no agreements can ever take
away from us as people, because GOD gave these rights.
Our people still need healing from all the negative forces that have cut
the meaning and link to the land, which was given to us as Cree people.
When we begin to heal we find the values and the teachings that our elders
still carry and have learned, this is the same knowledge that our people
have taken millions of years to gain. How can we not use this wisdom for
the betterment of our people?
How do we as a people look now to the outside world, who have stood with
us as our allies in helping us put a stop to some of the devastating
projects that were to take place on Eeyou Estchee.
The land will always outlast any amount of money that they give us.
J.B.N.Q.A. took two years to bring to a reality with eight months of
intense negotiations and we called this duress. The Agreement in Principal
now on the table is asking to be ratified in two months; don’t you think
that the principle of duress is playing a big role in this process?
How come we never asked for any of the land back in this agreement that
was lost in the J.B.N.Q.A. in 1975?
Why didn’t we ask for free electricity for our people? I am sure
that this option is not too much to ask in spite of all the devastation
that has come to the land and the environment that our people are facing
at this time.
In closing, I recall the teaching of one of our elders who said; to know
who you are is to know the history of your people, the history of the land
and the life it brings to us as a people, and the history of the language,
and that all that we are today, is carried within the language. Knowing
the meaning of this teaching will guide you in passing on the culture of
our people, as Eeouch of Eeyou Estchee.
with permission of The
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