Letters to the editor
new and now the most famous agreement in the aboriginal world has not only
disturbed our people but has created a division among us and beyond.
like a quiet sickness that has crawled in the middle of the night into the
most sensitive elements of our nation’s ecosystem.
for the Cree has had many twists and turns over the years externally,
internally and some that fit in the natural category. Natural events that
helped us grow to become who we are today.
most recent actions by our leaders is beyond words. In the last few days,
our lives have been filled with questions, confusion, anger, anticipation
and so on, but most important of all - it has brought each of us the
time to reflect on our history and naturally to put some thought to our
future, our children‘s and the generations to come.
three decades ago similar events took place. Our grandparents put their
older youth at the front lines to negotiate a future for us all. A
historic agreement they said when they signed the JBNQA. An agreement that
paved the way for our people to be one of the most recognized nations in
the world community, but it was also an agreement that was supposed to
pave the way for future development in our lands. Another Quebec
Premier’s vision at the time.
spirit and intent from the Cree perspective back in those days was simple.
Take control of health and social services, education, economic
development, etc. and administer our own affairs. We did most of that, but
what happened to the rest of it? This is a question I personally need time
to answer or should I be the one to answer, I don’t know but I am trying
to put my own pieces together.
is a land out there with the most beautiful sights the eye can see,
incredible sounds the world’s ears can hear and enjoy. These sights and
sounds tell the story of our people the generations to come would probably
enjoy to hear beside a campfire, but nothing would more enjoyable if they
would be given that same chance our generation has had.
is a land out there that basically has one protector left in this world
and that is YOU. There is land out there with natural habitat that depend
on it and we depend on both. All the money in the world cannot even afford
the price tag for this land. It is a natural gift that cannot be sold -
like the morning you wake up and hear the cry of a new born child who has
been brought to you to care and love. Priceless as they say. Priceless.
are a people that decide what feels right from deep inside and not what we
think is right. We will decide together not only for us, but for the
future generations, the animals, the birds, the fish, the trees, the lakes
and ponds, and the rivers that carry our story and their rapids that sing
the songs of our people.
BRAVE. BE STRONG. TSEYMINDO IS WITH YOU.
process by which this Agreement in Principle was reached disrespects the
Cree people on so many levels. First, we have always been a nation that
abides by a traditional law or custom that has endured for 1000’s of
years - we give respect to our people, to the land, to animals that walk
upon it, to the trees and plants that grow upon it, to the water that
gives us life and food and to the Creator of all of this. The process by
which this Agreement in Principle was reached does not afford respect to
any of this but seeks to trivialize our love and respect for all of these
things without speaking or more importantly without listening to the
Elders, the youth, the women and people of the land. The leaders that were
put into place are to handle day-to-day operations, they are to protect
our rights, they are to represent to the world who we are and what we hold
dear, they are to be a channel whereby our voices and concerns may be
heard by other nations and governments and they are a part of a sacred
trust relationship to act in a manner consistent with our beliefs,
culture, traditions and identity.
concept of property has always been different from the European view,
which is land represents wealth and exploitation of that land means more
money, power and prestige. To us, the land represents life, and the
protection and respect of that ensures life for next generations of Crees
to inhabit the land. We are not concerned with the maximization of wealth
by desecrating the land and environment so that our children are left
without a land to hunt or fish upon and can not drink the water or inhabit
it. The actions of this process go beyond a mere deal, they seek to
redefine our identity and to diminish our relationship to the land and
everything associated with it. The leadership is not empowered with the
ability to speak on our behalf when it comes to changing what it means to
be Cree – this is a decision that we can only decide as a full Cree
has been talk of the Resolution 2000-25 that the people, in recognition of
the pressure by the governments and corporations, strictly FORBID the Cree
leadership from negotiating a deal let alone signing one that would affect
our rights with respect to the land or the James Bay and Northern Quebec
Agreement. The Agreement in Principle from beginning to end talks of
nothing but our rights to the land and us relinquishing rights under the
James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. The resolution while evidence of
our expression that the leadership did not possess these powers is a mere
indication of a much more meaningful oral law and tradition that they
never possessed these powers. The fact that this Agreement in Principle
goes to the core of what makes us Cree and disrespects our traditional
beliefs of the interconnectedness of life makes it a decision that can
only rightly be placed upon the Cree people to decide.
information presented at the public meetings was incomplete and did not
address the harms to things that would be most precious to us. Questions
and concerns remained unanswered or simply ignored. It talked ambiguously
of the monetary benefits but did not address the values of the costs we
would pay. It only presented us with a small picture of what this would
truly cost us and how broadly it would affect us. This once again
disrespects us as it has never been our tradition to keep things from each
other – especially things of this importance to our present and future.
process cannot be final, or why would Premiere Landry have to sell the
deal to the National Assembly. It cannot be final, or why would we need to
sign a final deal in December. The parties to this are seeking the power
to make this a real agreement so it would be unfair to make us bond. Also,
as discussed above, the Cree signatories do not have the power to decide
this in the way they have done.
is a better process? One in which the whole nation can have input and
decide the questions about this that need to be decided. The Cree Nation
will soon gather for the holiday season, trappers will return from the
bush, employees from jobs in the south and students from their studies.
Each community should gather with its complete membership and ask
important questions of what direction they see the Cree culture, lifestyle
and whole nation going in the future. We need to ask if we will leave
behind our ideals of respect for the land, water, animals, fish, food,
trees, plants in lieu of future employment to exploit all of these and
quite possibly poison them. How will this affect the goose and moose hunts
of future generations? How will this affect how many fish we can eat in
the future or whether we can drink the water? How will this affect our
tourism industry if the land becomes more poisoned like it did with
Ouje-Bougoumou? Should this decision be a consensus of all the
communities, respecting the opinion of all the people, or should it be a
democratic model where it is the majority that should decide on our
direction? Do we have the right to take the land from our children and
future generations, or are we a part of a sacred chain that has endured
for 1000s of years? What does the Agreement in Principle really say? Are
we okay with relying on oral promises of men that will not last for the 50
years of the agreement? Why do they need to develop this area – is there
not enough electricity or is it the water they wish?
process would respect the voice of all the Cree Nation, the idea that our
future, culture and identity should be decided by the whole nation is more
acceptable. The timelines of the Agreement in Principle and Final
Agreement do not respect us and if there is truly a change in the
provincial government that they wish to make a nation-to-nation agreement,
they will understand and give us the opportunity to meet. This will be the
with permission of The
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