Letters to the editor
studying the Agreement in Principle I am compelled to write some of my
comments and thoughts to you and your readers. I got involved in
aboriginal politics since I was 18 years of age when the Elders of our
community asked that I start helping our people. I had good teachers like
Chief Smally Petawabano, Chief Robert Kanatewat and the late Chief Josie
Sam Atkinson and many others both young and old. In the early years back
in the late sixties we were told that we had no rights and that we were
just squatters on the land and that the Cree way of life was dying and
that we were all going to end up as wards of the state. Housing,
education, health and community socio-economic development was unheard of
back in those days when our people lived in poverty, tent frame shacks,
squalor, no running water, no electricity, few jobs with welfare wages and
many other obstacles and barriers.
the James Bay hydro-electric project was announced in April 28, 1971, it
was the young people like Philip Awashish and others that motivated the
Cree Chiefs to organize the first ever recorded meeting of the Cree
leadership in Cree history and that led to the fight to have our rights
recognized through the Courts, then the negotiations leading up to signing
of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement on November 11, 1975, then
the negotiations for the amendments of many pieces of provincial
legislation to make our rights recognized in existing or new legislation,
there have been many negotiations for the implementation of the JBNQA
since 1975 and it was a fight all the way. Numerous court cases have been
started and I get nervous when you ask the courts to defend Cree rights.
It is not a Cree justice system, there is danger that the Courts can rule
against you like in the EMI decision. It was against the Crees and the
is where negotiations have become very important. The avenue to achieving
further recognition of Cree rights is negotiations at a table based on
trust and faith. Every negotiator dreams that all negotiations should be
on a mutual working relationship. Even in negotiations, however, there is
still a fight to have your rights recognized as we found our through the
Cree-Naskapi Act negotiations and legislation and the Canadian
Constitution negotiations where we got the Cree rights entrenched and the
JBNQA and all its complimentary agreements recognized as a treaty and
treaty rights. It was a battle but we won the day through some very tough
we see the Agreement in Principle of October 23, 2001, that this was done
through some very tough negotiations. The Agreement brings together all
the matters that were on the many tables since 1976 and brings them to
forefront of implementation.
years of difficulties in implementation there is now a firm commitment
that the Cree will have the resources to do much more than just
implementation of their rights but to develop their own future at a pace
that the Crees want to, not at the whim of somebody else. Crees have to
become masters of their own destiny and the New relationship with Quebec,
based on Nation to Nation, gives the Crees an unprecedented opportunity.
It is up to us to take this opportunity and we should not let it slip
know many of us are upset about process but let us concentrate on the
content. As I said at the community meeting in Waskaganish that the
governments do not make these kind of offers on a daily basis, the
governments are serious about settling the issues with the Crees when they
make these kind of agreements and we will never see this kind of offer
again. Opportunities like this come once in a life time. I mean it. It
will not happen again in our lifetime. This is unprecedented and unparalleled
in its magnitude. Think for a moment that a Prime Minister and a Grand
Chief meet to discuss what it would take to solve the problems and an
offer is developed that includes most of everything that we the Cree
leadership has been putting forward for the last 26 years. This is unheard
of and the solution can come about with us and our participation. This is
possible now. After years of fighting and Quebec bashing we are finally
going to get down to serious work.. After studying the Agreement in
Principle, there is enough work there for all those who want to get
involved and no one should feel that they are left out. Why even us old
warriors are being asked to come back and help. The snow is on the roof
and the bones are a little weary but the fire to fight and to help our
people is still there.
have been fighting for a long time. What have we been fighting for? When
you fight for a long and all your life, it feels like something is wrong
when suddenly the Grand Chief comes and tells us there is an agreement and
peace. I said in Waskaganish that I was in shock. It was so sudden. Why
was I not consulted? Why this offer?
I agree that we have to stop fighting sooner or later. For 26 years we
fought for the implementation of the JBNQA and all its related
legislation. We fought for something real for our people. If we get away
from all of the strong feelings for a moment. We have to ask: Does the AIP
give us what we have been fighting for? That is the question.
have been fighting for Cree rights. We have been fighting for our share in
the resources and that ability to develop those resources at a benefit to
our people. When a person is a Chief he or she gets very frustrated of
repeatedly going to the governments for the administration of their own
welfare. We now have a chance at building a secure future for our greatest
resource- our people. We have an opportunity here to develop and protect
further our Cree water rights. But better still we have a chance at our
own future with both Quebec and Canada. It is up to us and let us make it
a Cree debate.
us set aside our own internal prejudices and go beyond the veil of money.
There is too much at stake here to warrant our own personal agendas but to
think of our future as a Cree Nation. I commend people who have their own
opinion but we need to work together for the sake of the Cree Nation. When
I sat on the Board/Council of the GCCEI and the CRA, I disagreed with my
fellow Chiefs on O&M Negotiations and I refused to sign the agreement
but I stayed and did my best to work out a better agreement. When the
Police Agreement was negotiated I also disagreed and I refused to sign it
but I did not walk out on my fellow Chiefs. Again when I got blasted for
negotiating the 1993 MOU Agreement, the former Deputy Grand Chief did not
agree and he even had his own press conference but he did not walk out on
his fellow Chiefs. You are allowed to disagree but let us work it out
through a Cree debate and let it be a Cree debate.
AIP gives the Crees what we have been fighting for. Not everything. But it
goes a long way. No one ever gets everything they want in any
negotiations. Quebec asks for Cree consent for two projects. Quebec sees
the Cree Nation with resource rights over all our territory, not just
Category I or Category II lands. We have come a long was since 1974 when
Quebec said we had no rights. So all of this fighting has helped Quebec
understand that there are Cree rights.
everyone thinks this is a good idea. I understand that. There have always
been Crees who disagreed with leadership. We don’t always have to agree.
I have had my own disagreements, but I didn’t walk away from this
discussion. I stayed to listen, to ask questions, and to hear the answers.
If you walk out of the room because you are angry or surprised you are
making a mistake. You can’t say you are just against this deal, and then
not listen to what others have to say.
are 13,000 Crees who want to build a future. We need to know that our
children will have a future if they stay in the community. Think about
this and get all the information you can. I think we have to give
negotiators and the Grand Chief a chance to bring this deal home to our
people, and then judge what is best for all the Crees for the next 50
years. As I said, you won’t see anything as big as this again. That is
God for wisdom to guide us in our deliberation and He will provide the
wisdom and knowledge. Let your gifting give you leadership.
in Peace and Friendship,
Billy “Chief” Diamond
am old and weak, mercury travels through my veins, I was diagnosed with
diabetes a few decades ago, I have trouble breathing, I have cancer, my
moccasins are made of canvas, my grand-son died at a very young age, he
never lived to kill his first goose, nor had he celebrated his walking out
came to die on my trap line in peace, but it is impossible. There are no
trees from the devastation of our land from the logging companies, the
river is dry, it does not flow anymore, it is dead, the mountains have
disappeared from the minings, there are no birds to sings their songs, It
is quiet, the weather has changed, I am cold...I do not recognize this
land, our land;
never got the 3.5 Billion we were promised, the government never fulfilled
their obligations, our nation has died gradually over the years, first was
our beliefs, our traditions, then came our culture, our way of life...we
could not hunt, fish and trap;
say it was from the historical Agreement we have signed with the
government of Quebec, I should have fought, I should have fought for my
people, our rights and our land, and for the generations to come.
say that the man that signed the Agreement died of arsenic poisoning, some
say he died in his cottage in the Laurentians, I don’t know, I do not
remember him, I believe his name was Moses, all I remember is he and among
other “leaders” were responsible in destroying the foundation of
nightmare is ending now, I am dying, I wish I had one last feast with my
friends and family around a camp fire, but I am alone, my last wish is to
eat some moose, some goose, fresh fish, beaver...I don’t remember what
it tastes like, I’m going to die now, eat the last crumbs of my bannock!
OUR CONSENT - Does our leadership have a hidden agenda?
am most grateful that the GCCQ Council of Chiefs and the Government of
Quebec have agreed to their common willingness to settle their
differences. I commend the Cree leadership for standing solidly with
the GCCQ administration to formulate and conduct a policy of implementing
the long outstanding obligations by the Government of Quebec regarding the
provisions of the 1975 James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement. I
believe that the past and present Cree leadership of the nine Cree Nations
of Northern Quebec appreciate the determination of the Moses
Administration to fight and commence a new nation-to-nation relationship
between the Crees and Quebec.
without the consent of our people, it is noticeable that the Cree
leadership have failed the Cree populace by neglecting the traditional
practice of common democracy without proper community consultation.
Our leadership have betrayed our land and its inhabitants, our elders, our
youth, our children and our grandchildren. Can we continue to trust
our chiefs and grand chief?
having to adjust our thinking and we’re learning that our leadership are
not what they seem to be - trustworthy, honest, faithful, loyal, and most
important, respectful. I understand our people are concerned and
they should be. We must take careful inventory of this agreement and
give faithful account to those we owe an obligation of trust, which is our
task must begin at home. When the youngest child alive today has
grown to the cares of adulthood, our position will be determined, first of
all, by what provisions we make today - for education, health, and
opportunities for a good home, a good job and a good life. What we
do today will affect our children and grandchildren. To the youth,
this is our calling. This is the time for us to act in a bold way,
we must take our inherent place in the Cree leadership circle and we must
do just that.
the past, we have stood behind the Cree leadership in protecting our way
of life against Forestry, Hydro Electric Projects and Mining. Our
cooperation was very strong and very evident. Although we will
generously benefit from this monetary gain, the outcome is by no means
certain, the answers are by no means clear. All of us together must
forge those answers.
is just unacceptable behaviour for our leadership to agree to an agreement
in principle rather than taking the unique opportunity of negotiating a
long-term agreement such as our inherent right to self government.
By agreeing to this agreement in principle, we are being forced to retreat
from the lawsuits that we have initiated and we are forced to value money
rather than the protection our homeland.
need to be reassured that this is a stepping stone towards self- governance.
I hope that our Cree leadership will do everything they possibly can to
protect our land and our Cree way of life. I know we are strong
enough to endure because we’re a kind and compassionate nation with
strong values and we value life.
Matthews is a Cree from Waswanipi, Quebec. He’s in his final year
of the Law Clerk (Legal Assistant) program at Canadore College in North
Bay, Ontario. He’s the current Chairperson of the Canadore
Aboriginal Student Association, which represents over 300 Aboriginal Post
have our support
of energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy resources will make
far more electricity available than would destruction of the Rupert and
deeply regret that our Cree friends must struggle to defend your lands,
again and again. What we wish for you is peace. But we also
continue to support your courageous protection of the precious natural
resources in your region, and would like to help in any way we can.
The good boat ODEYAK is always welcome on the Hudson River!
Delaney (for PROTECT)
will happen to me
name is of no importance for the time being. I am a Cree youth
representative speaking my thoughts on what I think about the Agreement in
Principal. In this new agreement there is a lot to be said, and a lot to
be asked about the matters contained in it, but I will not raise those
kinds of questions.
I first heard about this, just as many did, I too was shocked and more or
less denied. I was shocked because I was more or less the last one
to be told about this. And I was denied because like many other
youth representatives across the Cree Nation who have nothing to do with
the Agreement in Principle. Grand Chief Ted Moses pointed out that ‘this
agreement is for the youth and for the future of the Cree Nation.’
it had been for the youth, we the youth would have had suggestions,
recommendations, and ideas of what should have been contained in this
agreement in principle, but it does not.
do not agree with this Agreement in Principle. Why should I allow such
forces of self-destruction hail across my land?
will happen to me when and if this agreement goes through? I don’t
know the answer but I can give you a wild guess. And this may apply
to everyone as well as those who go through some of what I too am going
through these days of my life. The answer is nothing.
I finally get a job? Probably not. Will I finally be financially secure
and rich? Probably not. Will I finally get what I want? Probably not. You
too can ask yourselves the same questions over and over. And I can
give you the answer to every self-determining question you can think of
which the answer will probably be NOT or NO.
will say, but the money will go a little here, a little there, a little
over there, more here, more there, more over there, and of all this money
going around and round we go, the possibilities are endless.
what about the land which we foremost take for pride, respect and living?
Sure some say it’s understandable if we agree to allow such forces to
destroy our lands, rivers, and forests for money, when these days money is
what basically keeps us alive and together. I think not.
the eyes of the hunter or trapper, money is not everything, but in the
eyes of the worker or employee, money is everything. How do we justify
what is the best course of action? How do we decide if this
agreement is good, bad, or ugly? And where exactly do we want to go?
self-determination will form the best course of action of what to agree
upon. I say, if there is to be a Cree Government, it should be called the
Cree Nation Command. And this new Cree Government should, with the
consent of the Cree Nation, command a new agreement to the Premier of
Quebec, then Canada, to outline every need, every want, every must, every
idea, and every thought that is there to form a new relationship, and to
commence the economic development(s) in our communities without further
inflicting more harm to ourselves, and the land. We the Cree have every
right to reject this agreement in principal and form a new agreement in
principle as a counteraction to this act by the Premier, furthermore
without a deadline so that we may finally achieve the glory of our
self-determination without obligation.
I was the Grand Chief, I would listen more to my people so that I come up
with ideas on how to fight the rampant poverty that in our communities. I
would ask the people from every corner of the Cree Nation to give me ideas
and thoughts, no matter how insignificant or impossible, to allow progress
and wondrous ventures to proceed with great triumph, so that I am exactly
that of which is expected of me. The Grand Chief, the leader of all
do not think much of the Agreement in Principle, because I wasn't there to
say what should have been included in this Agreement in Principle.
have told you the part of me that thinks not. And now I will share
with you the part of me that thinks ‘why not.’ Why not say, 'Yeah!
This is Great!' Of course I would be contradicting myself, but
nevertheless the possibilities are endless.
of what I want to achieve, build, create and determine, because of what I
want to be, of what I want to see, of what I want to reach, of what I want
to command, of what I want to conquer, of what I want to rebel, of what I
want to shock, of what I want to hold, of what I want to dream is because
of the part of me that says, “Why not!” But I would be putting
myself first, ahead of everybody else.
urge you not to agree to this Agreement in Principal. Unless, for a moment
in time I was allowed to achieve, build, create, determine, be, see,
reach, command, conquer, rebel, shock, hold, and dream all at the same
time and place, I would consent to such an agreement to proceed but like I
said, I was not part of this agreement nor do I have anything to do with
this agreement, therefore I think not.
the Grand Chief of the Cree Nation, I know you said that the only reason
why you signed this agreement in principle was because you wanted to bring
back something concrete instead of always coming back empty handed. Well,
now is your chance to bring back something more than what is being offered
on the table. The will of the people.
will of the people lies before you as it has been dormant for many a millennia,
and now the people have awoken again. Will you lead them to great
triumph and victory, so that the future is kept for another millennia a
generation to evolve beyond this state of mind? Or will you let the dragon
sleep to be awakened by another only to bring great glory to the people?
A simple yes or no will suffice.
remember, I will not wait much longer for our self-determination to shed
some light on the people while we are still much in need. As they say,
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” I know there
are those of us who are beginning to do anything to achieve something more
than what we can wish for, because I am one of them. And one day, if
nothing is what it seems should have been, I will make certain the needs
of the few outweigh the needs of the many. Take this how you please I will
not explain myself what I really mean by it.
more comment about the Agreement in Principle to the Premier of Quebec.
Fifty years is a long time for me to live and I’ll be 81 years old by
then. 70 million dollars won’t cover my expenses during that time. If
the Premier wants my vote, he’ll have to pay the Cree Nation at large a
sum of 80 billion dollars tax free during the course of the agreement’s
life span. And this is non-negotiable. Thank you for your
with permission of The
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