“We must empower ourselves to decide what is important for the preservation of our language, our culture, our communities and for Eeyou Astchee.

“We must empower ourselves and, in doing so, revive the indigenous control that we have over our own lives, our institutions, and over Eeyou Astchee…”

Proposal for a process to establish the Eeyou Tabeytachesiw and Eeyou Weeshowewin submitted at the AGA.

The aroma of moose meat barbecuing over the coals intermingled with the black flies and mosquitoes by the shores of the Waswanipi River.

The laughter and the easy talk belied the serious business talking place at the school gym. The 22nd Annual General Assembly had convened in Waswanipi on July 26 to the 28th.

It started sounding like a broken record (or a skipping CD for you modern types). “We need more accountability… Too many hats for too few people… etc.” And as usual Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come ended up answering for the various entities. The presidents from the various entities and national companies, and two chiefs, were not present to answer for themselves, leading one delegate to ask, “Is there a presidents’ convention somewhere?”

That is pretty much how the first day went. Eventually the Assembly went on to other business. A landmark document was presented to the Assembly entitled, “A Proposal for a process to establish the Eeyou Tabeytachesiw and Eeyou Weeshowewin.” It outlines the need to establish an Eeyou Government and Constitution.

Peter Coon, a graduate of law, had been mandated to critique the present institutions in Eeyou Astchee. His findings were that basically there are just a bunch of corporations with no real mandate to govern.

A resolution was passed to start the process of establishing Eeyou Weeshowewin and Eeyou Tabeytachesiw. A resolution was also passed to establish a Cree national coordinating body.

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come said of the Weeshowewin, “Where do we want to go, what are our hopes, what do we want to do for ourselves? It will come from all of us, from the nine communities. We can all say, when it’s finished, ‘That is ours, we helped put it together.’The youth can also say, ‘ Our voice is in there,’ and the Elders can also say that.”

The restructuring of the Tabeytachesiw is nothing short of revolutionary. Virtually everything is on the line.

“We will have to look at the structures, decide upon the seats that will be held, look at the operations that are there and the work that to be done,” added Coon Come.

What is happening to the money which was taken to bail out the companies? was another question asked. In fact, a review of the conflicts in the regional economic entities will be under way. The CRA and Board of Compensation were the ones mandated to carry out the review. As part of the review, a special general assembly on economic development will be held.

There is a “10-year clause” in the James Bay Agreement that “restricts the right of Cree beneficiaries to receive services after a 10-year absence from the territory… This clause is discriminatory,” goes the resolution that asks the Grand Council to pursue an amendment of the Agreement to remove that clause.

Quite a number of youth concerns were also addressed. Glen Cooper made an impassioned speech on the housing crisis as it relates to the youth in Eeyou Estchee. He had been away from Waswanipi for a few years. He had his own apartment, he ran his life independently and everything that goes with having your own place.

Upon returning to Waswanipi he had nowhere to live except at his parents’ house. He said he was 25 years old, he wanted his own place so he can get on with his life. Otherwise the youth will start an exodus from the communities to lead independent lives. A resolution calling for “the accommodation of all the demographics of Eeyouch, particularly as it relates to the Cree youth needs,” was passed so that youth are taken into account when housing needs are developed. A youth seat will also be made available on the Council/Board of the Grand Council and CRA.

The issue of AIDS in the communities was also addressed, prompting a sex education and healing program for the Cree Nation. The youth also made a recommendation to lower the voting age to 16.

Also on the table was support for Nemaska in naming old Nemaska post as a historic site. Eastmain got support to get banking services and an arena and sports complex. Ouje-Bougoumou will also get an arena. Cree language training will be provided by the school board to post-secondary students in the south.The Crees of Senneterre will start benefitting from school board services. And a motion was made to hold the next AGA in Ouje-Bougoumou.