The Crees of Whampagoostui have voted in a referendum to reject any development project that would affect the Great Whale River.

In the July 29 referendum, 92 per cent of those who cast a ballot voted No to hydro development of the Great Whale River.

“This is a very strong mandate for the Cree leadership,” said Chief Matthew Mukash in a statement.

“My people are determined to stand up against any project having to do with the destruction of land, water and other resources that have sustained us as a people since time immemorial, and I am very happy about that,” he said.

“No amount of money in the world can replace the type of destruction that took place at La Grande, and this is not going to happen here.”

Hydro-Quebec recently admitted it is studying new projects in Iyiyuuschii. Apparently, Hydro is interested in diverting the Great Whale and Rupert rivers, but plans are still at a preliminary stage.

Of 430 eligible voters in the referendum, 245 cast a ballot. Of these, 226 voted against hydro development.

In June, Mukash was re-elected to a third term as chief on a platform of opposition to new hydro projects.

A statement from the Whapmagoostui First Nation said the community is concerned with media reports which suggested the Crees are ready to accept the diversion of the Great Whale and Rupert.

The band has received many calls from supporters around the world asking what is going on.

“We are greatly concerned about what the media reports have done,” said Mukash.

“Everybody seems to be thinking that we are ready to sit down with Hydro-Quebec and the government of Quebec and let them build dams as they please,” said David Masty, the band’s executive director.

“That is a notion that shouldn’t be in the mind of anybody, and we are going to do something about it. This project will not be discussed by the Crees with Hydro-Quebec.”

Deputy Chief George Masty said: “Whapmagoostui had decided to launch a campaign against the proposed diversion of the Great Whale River, although the plan by Hydro-Quebec is at a very preliminary stage.

“It’s better to attack the idea before it materializes any further and much money is spent on it. We are planning to go all out by any means we can as a community to prevent the destruction of the land, water and our way of life. Our future generations and other people will need this land for healing, because there aren’t many wilderness areas in the world for this purpose.”

Hydro’s plan, as far as we now know, would include diverting the Great Whale at its source, Lake Bienville.

Elder Andrew Natachequan’s trapline would be affected by such a diversion. He is concerned with the effects on the Lake Bienville area.

“This is unacceptable,” he said. “Lake Bienville is a sacred area. It is the heart of the land. Its huge water area contains all kinds of fish that has sustained the Iyiyuuch. It is the central calving ground for the inland caribou. Birds and animals of all kinds have used and continue to use this area as a sanctuary.

“It just cannot be touched by man. Any alteration to it will bring bad luck to the perpetrator, because it is a sacred area.”