Battle for the Rupert 





Giving away the river 10/29/01


Commentary: Crees surrender their great river Rupert

  . Commentary: 25 years of force-fed acculturation

Cree deal a model or betrayal? 12/10/01


$3.6 billion deal unraveling 12/10/01

  . Hydro Quebec's hidden agenda 12/15/01
  . Cree leaders may have deal in a week 12/19/01

Grand Chief Moses Quebec's hero 12/19/01



AIP  Agreement in Principle signed on the Rupert River, Oct. 23/01


CRA  Cree Regional Authority, the administrative government


Eeyou Istchee  Cree homeland. Meaning:  People's Land


Eeyouch  Cree people


GCCEI   Grand Council of the Crees, governing body of Cree Nation whose members are chiefs of the nine communities


JBNQA James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (1975), the first agreement


NBR   Nottaway-Broadback

-Rupert Project, to be phase III of James Bay Project


Agreement in Principle

Letters to the editor

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A reminder…Cree leaders…

I read something the other day that startled me right out of my chair. I read in the 2001 January issue of the Nation it is rumored that some of our Cree leaders and entrepreneurs are talking of building a dam on the Great Whale River. Our leaders who have our trust! Holy smokes! Are they so brainwashed that they think they can put on the shelf all the years that the James Bay Cree have been battling Bourassa’s government? Battling them, without bloodshed, against further destruction to the land. Now I hear that there is talk of dams to be built on the Nottaway, Broadback, and Rupert rivers. I am shaking my head.

Remember when the Cree and the Inuit of Great Whale built a big boat, combining the canoe and kayak design? In the early spring a team of Inuit dogs pulled the boat over the snow and ice to Chisasibi. Two artists, one Cree the other Inuit, painted beautiful animals on it and then a big truck took the boat to Ottawa, where protests were already under way. Children, women, and men, including some chiefs, paddled all the way from Ottawa to New York to protest the damming of more rivers. That boat even went to Europe and floated on some rivers there. Now there is talk of damming more rivers…I think our leaders are out of their minds. I am thinking they have not lived on the land since a long time ago, maybe since they were babies when their mother, father, grandparents, aunts and uncles lived on the land. 

How many of our Cree leaders can go out and live on the land, by themselves, the way our ancestors did just 50 years ago and before then? Not all of them. That’s because our leaders are so busy scheming up ways to make money so they can live comfortably in a house, surrounded by luxuries and getting ulcers at the same time from the food they eat.

How many of our Cree entrepreneurs can live off the land by themselves with just an ax, knife, rifle, fire starter, tent, snowshoes, and a canoe? Our ancestors did. The Cree people of the James Bay region did. Some people still live like that today. These people LIVE off the land. These people LIVE with the land. They do not need to change the land. They do not need to divert rivers and destroy delicately balanced ecosystems. They do not need mass amounts of money to survive. They do not need television, nintendo games, fancy trucks and fancy ski-doos, fancy cars, giant outboard motors, greasy fast foods, fancy furniture, and top of the line dishware. They do not, because living with the beauty of the land all around is enough for them. They could pass traditional knowledge and science on to their families. And how did they learn all that science? By carefully observing the animals and their interconnectedness with the cycles of nature.

All was peaceful until, Hydro-Quebec and the Quebec government came along with their ideas and machines to build dams on the rivers, secretly knowing dams disturb delicate cycles in nature. They came with their lies sticking out of their briefcases. Their lies to Cree people that everything is going to be all right and nature would not be disturbed.

Well dear Cree entrepreneurs and money oriented minds, what does it take to become like one of them? Them…meaning Those Who Destroy Rivers. The rivers that help Nature with her delicate cycles. The cycles that support life. They said that nature would not be disturbed. Mother Nature who fed you with fish and waterfowl. Who froze water in the winter so we may easily get to wild game on the other side of the river. Who gave us clean water to drink. Who gave us a road to travel on in the summer.

What does it take for Cree entrepreneurs to become like them? Them. Those Who Exploit Mother Nature. Those who created hell along the river. The rivers that were once clean enough to drink from with cupped hands are now filthy. We get our tap water from the river. Sometimes the water is too dirty even for laundry and housecleaning. Today we travel many miles to the fresh water springs for drinking. We travel many miles though we live right by a river

In the winter, because of the turbines in the dam, the river does not freeze, most of the time, it does not freeze at all. The wildlife on the village side becomes depleted. We used to be able to walk to the other side of the river to hunt. We cannot even slide down the river bank on cardboard and animal skins like we did as children. Because the river does not freeze, we would have been trapped on the island, so we were forced to move to the mainland. 

River currents are increased and the water level rises when the turbines at the dams are opened to let water out of the reservoirs. The unnatural increased flow of water accelerates land erosion. Big clumps of land fall into the water. Sand deposits and stronger currents destroy ideal places in the river where people once put fishnets and caught many fish. The salinity at the mouth of the river has changed, affecting the eel grass, a main staple in the diet of water birds like the geese. Even paddling a canoe upstream is impossible during the opening of the turbines. Many years ago whole families paddled hundreds of miles upstream to their winter camps. When the turbines are opened the river current is stronger. So strong it drags canoes that are anchored along the shore downstream, sometimes banging them against rocks and ripping the canvas.

Sure Hydro Quebec gave us money to compensate for the loss of our land and the loss of ancients ways of life for many people. We gave up too much for a small handful of money. Sure we have better hospitals, housing, schools and arenas. But we gave up a whole lot, a whole lot more than money can ever replace. We gave up so much, we can’t even drink the water anymore. And that is a lot, because now a lot of our people drink bottled water shipped in from some place else. We should be the ones shipping bottled fresh water out and profiting from it. Now we pay for our water and we pay for our electricity. Electricity made from the water that once used to be our very lives. We pay for electricity that should be as free for us, as free as the river once was.

You know, you leaders don’t have to become one of them. They who imprison beautiful rivers behind manmade dams. You don’t have to become one of them because you think that’s the only way to make more money. Don’t be one of Those Who Have Done Enough Damage. Hydro Quebec and the government have done enough damage. More than enough. You leaders who have our trust, you must remind Hydro, continually remind and hound Hydro Quebec that the little bit of money that they did give us does not make up for the whole lot that we have lost. They owe us a whole lot more. More than a small handful of dollars. 

Even a full bank vault the size of France will not cover the pain that Mother Earth will feel when the capitalist industrial machines tear into her flesh. All her creatures will feel her pain. All the creatures that the Creator has put on her belly, to walk freely with their heads held high in the air. The humans who were put  on her belly to live as one with the land and animals will feel her pain.

Dear leaders; I and many others, and those who will follow in your footsteps, have felt your pain from the beginning, in your battle against Hydro Quebec and the Quebec government. I know you grow weary and tired. That is Quebec’s strategy, to kill you with words. Lies and broken promises made up of words. They want to wear you down and separate the strength that you have when you remain united as a Cree Nation. United on the earth where you were born.

There have been many nights that you have not slept comfortably in your own beds on the land you call home, and your people call home. We must not let Quebec and the others with their obscure insidious methodologies of controlling the world to sleep in our bed with their lies and false truths. 


All This Talk of Progress

All this talk of progress reminds me of a story that I heard recently. It was about this tourist who was vacationing in Latin America.  Each day he would watch this aboriginal fisherman go down to the docks and take his wooden boat out with a net and spend an hour or two catching seafood and then leave. After a few days, the tourist waited on the dock to talk to the fisherman. He said to him, “where do you go each day after you fish?” The aboriginal fisherman said “Why sir, I catch what I need for my family then I return home each day and relax and spend time with my children.” The tourist said “You know if you spent another hour or two fishing each day, you could catch more fish.” The aboriginal said “what would I do then?” The tourist said “why you could sell them on the dock and get money” The aboriginal said “what would I do then?” The tourist said “ well, you could catch even more fish to sell and make more money.” The aboriginal “what would I do then?” The tourist “why you could buy a bigger boat so you could go further and catch even more fish to sell and make even more money.” The aboriginal “what would I do then?” The tourist “well, you could use the money to set up an office and hire a captain to catch the fish for you.” The aboriginal “why would I do that?” The tourist “so that you could find more nets and boats and set up a fishing operation and make even more money.” The aboriginal “what would I do then” The tourist “why you could have a fleet fishing for you and selling your fish first here and then to an international market – you could build an empire” The aboriginal “how long would this take?” The tourist “with hard work and many hours a day dedicated to this, you could do it within 20 years or more.” The aboriginal “and why would I build all of this?” The tourist “so you could become rich and do what you wanted” The aboriginal “what is it that you do when you are rich” The tourist “well, you provide your family with everything, and you have enough time to spend with your family and you relax.” The aboriginal “but sir, I already do all that and have all that now, why would I wait 20 or 30 years to enjoy what I do now?”

I think of this story and ask myself what is it that progress or development really gets us. Is it the security and lifestyle that we already enjoy in the Cree territory? Is it so we can become rich and eventually be able to afford fishing and hunting trips with our children or live in a nice area around beautiful lakes and trees? If we proceed with a progress that hurts the beauty we already enjoy then when and if we do become rich – will we have to look for another area to retire in that is not so damaged or toxic? Who is it that is getting rich from these efforts anyway? It is not the average person in Quebec or Canada or the United States – it is large corporations and people that already have millions and billions of dollars that exploit natural resources for profit and do it without regard for the aftermath because it would interfere with the bottom line? More jobs are created for average people with environmentally conscience activities, should we not be in the position to control our environment to ensure no harm is done to it or to us, definitely the large corporations will not look out for us and the land when it might mean slightly lower profits (and it is only slight).

A Cree who wants to keep fishing  

Reprinted with permission of  The Nation

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