Alfred Jolly has hunted and trapped in his territory at Lake Evans most his life; his family bagged five moose there last fall. Now, however, the former vice-president of Mishtuk Corporation is worried that younger Cree are losing out on opportunities to learn the traditional skills he gained in his own youth.
That’s one reason why Jolly has now joined the Cree Trappers Association, where he was elected president August 27. After 28 years working in forestry as a founding member of Mishtuk, Jolly had become quite familiar with the needs of Cree trappers when he worked with them to lessen the impacts of logging on traplines. He also knew that Cree traditional ways of life are threatened as younger people lack opportunities to spend time living on the land in the way of their ancestors.
After serving a chairperson of his local trappers’ committee, Jolly decided the CTA’s chronic funding shortfall needed to be addressed.
“I had worked at the local level and understood the problems we had [in Waswanipi]. But to do the things we need to do, we need to fix the funding problems for all communities,” he said in an interview with the Nation last week.
With the price of energy prices, many people simply can’t afford the gasoline to get out into the bush, he said. In some communities, people can only access their hunting territories by air, which is too costly for many.
Another problem is that there are simply not enough cabins to go around for many families. “There just isn’t room for a lot of the younger people,” he pointed out.
These are the priorities Jolly is hoping to address in his first term as president of the CTA. But he said the answer is in the funding priorities of the Grand Council of the Crees.
“Most grand chiefs talk about how we need to protect our traditional way of life when they’re running as candidates,” Jolly observed. “I hear these election promises all the time, but where is the money to do this?”
Jolly said he is hoping for positive results from newly elected Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, who he says talked a lot about protecting traditional hunting and trapping during his successful run last summer to regain the top job in Eeyou Istchee.
“It can’t wait,” Jolly insisted. “We are losing our opportunity to interest the younger generation in traditional lifestyles because our Elders are dying away and taking their traditional knowledge with them.”