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




Grand Council of the Cree


Letters to the editor

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Give our negotiators a chance

After 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.

When 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 Crees lost.

This 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 negotiations.

Now 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.

After 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 away.

I 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.

We 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?

But 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.

We 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.

Let 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.

The 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.

Not 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.

There 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 the reality.

Ask God for wisdom to guide us in our deliberation and He will provide the wisdom and knowledge. Let your gifting give you leadership.

Yours in Peace and Friendship,

Dr. Billy “Chief” Diamond


October 23, 2051

I 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 ceremony;

I 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;

We 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;

They 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.

Some 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 our Nation.

My 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!


WITHOUT OUR CONSENT - Does our leadership have a hidden agenda?

I 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.

However, 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?

We’re 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 people.  

The 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.

In 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. 

It 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. 

We 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. 

Leonard Matthews

Leonard 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 Secondary Students.  

You have our support

Development of energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy resources will make far more electricity available than would destruction of the Rupert and Eastmain Rivers.

We 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! 

Doris Delaney (for PROTECT)

What will happen to me

My 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.

When 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.’

If 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.

I do not agree with this Agreement in Principle. Why should I allow such forces of self-destruction hail across my land? 

What 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.

Will 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.

Some 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.

And 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.

In 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?

Our 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.

If 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 chiefs.

I 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.

I 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.

Because 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.

I 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. 

To 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.

The 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.

Just 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.

One 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 time.


Prime Director

Reprinted with permission of  The Nation

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