Open letter to Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come and the Cree leadership,

I have wanted to express my sincerest appreciation for having had the opportunity to work with each of you during my term as a Council/Board member for Mistissini these past two years. I especially wanted to thank the community members of Mistissini for having me serve them. I shall always hold our friendship and co-working relationship with the greatest respect.

I carry with me many memories of the past few years’ experiences and I wanted to share some personal thoughts on some of the issues before us. In 1995, we chose to take to task the government of Quebec on many unresolved community service issues. At that time I expressed my disagreement to the pursued strategy. I expressed then my concern that we were only once again given “promises” with no real guarantees.

Since then the Quebec government has shown over time its true intention to hold our Cree Nation hostage in the address of important matters for our communities.

I am saddened to see the continued pursuit of this strategy which has so far consisted of an empty process. I fail to understand the rationale behind this and cannot, as a Cree member accept this present lack of direction on these issues and others. We have said one time or other that a people without vision will perish. I hope we take this seriously and start doing something about the way we now govern ourselves. What is clear is old-school political thinking is not consistent with the present times and real change must prevail.

Our Cree Nation, as a community or as one Nation, must hold of the highest value moral honesty and integrity in every aspect of self-government, whether in community financial management or other. Strong principles must be upheld to guide us in serving our people. If one chooses to serve in community leadership or regional leadership, then one should be honest about one’s personal motives in the choice made and be held fully responsible and accountable. Attempting to do too much will always result in someone losing out. The question will always remain as to who is benefiting?

Quebec or corporate structures will always pursue their own objectives to divide us. We are clearly seeing more of this these days. Hydro-Quebec’s proposed potential projects are becoming a real test on Cree unity, on Cree political strength and direction. Will our Cree Nation opt for the short-term gain because the so-called “window of opportunity” is being pressured on us? Will our people have an opportunity to choose between new projects and the protection of a way of life on the land? Or will we be told after the fact that an agreement has been reached.

What about our Cree Nation stand on forestry issues and the legal process which our people mandated the leadership to seek and protect Cree rights and the way of life on the land? Minister Guy Chevrette has clearly “blackmailed” the Cree leadership by threatening not to pursue issues related to the 1995 MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) all because of the forestry case. How long will we tolerate such attitudes?

I believe the patience is fast wearing thin at the grassroots level on the way the leadership has handled the PQ government’s total lack of respect and recognition of the Cree Nation rights. We have to change the circumstances before us and create a better situation for our people and communities.

I strongly believe our people will have to be more involved in the decision-making process and not just a select few. I believe we must stand back and assess our community strategy in achieving our community needs. Building projects based on promised dollars will always catch up and cause undue pressure and means to achieve projects. We only have to look at our communities and see empty shells of unfinished projects. Who bears the responsibility? I believe we must take great care in these matters.

The Quebec leadership is quietly and effectively pursuing its own agenda on many fronts and the Cree Nation must likewise move quickly to pursue issues which will ultimately affect our future. Premier Bouchard has clearly expressed in a public forum that PQ supporters
should be prepared for another referendum as early as spring in the year 2000. Jean Charest has also sounded warnings to this effect. Where is the Cree leadership on these issues?

My hopes and prayers are thus that we will always be united, strong and with a clear vision be fully committed and ready to achieve our Nation’s hopes for its future; and in these hopes I am calling on all community members to strongly voice their concerns and interests on these
issues and others.

We must stand united in all fronts as we continue to take to task the government on Cree rights. We cannot allow the PQ to walk all over the Cree Nation and scatter them as they are attempting to do. People must call on the Grand Chief, Chief and Councils, and understand exactly what is the status of all issues – what is the common Cree position on these issues. Know your rights and exercise them to achieve that which is good and right for our Cree Nation.

So once again, thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with each of you and may our loving Father continue to be with you, guide you and bless our Cree Nation.