The following is an interview between The Nation’s Ernest Webb and Chisasibi elder Abraham Pisinaquan, 80, about Quebec and Cree sovereignty. Translated by Brian Webb.
The Nation: Where do Eeyou come from?
Abraham Pisinaquan: He wasn’t in one place when he was found. Wherever Whiteman found land, there were native people. When the White people found this land, it was called Eeyou-schii. When the Whiteman showed the Eeyou gifts and offerings, the Eeyou said, “kabada” (“don’t bring it”). The Eeyou didn’t know what the use for these gifts was.
The Whiteman thought the Eeyou said “canada.” The whiteman sailed back where he came from and said, “The name of that place where those Eeyou live is Canada.”
What do you tell Quebec, which wants to separate?
It looks like they shouldn’t do it. It is long ago that Trudeau was prime minister and he said, “I will give no one my ownership to that which is under my rule.” He said it because he did not want them to separate. It is not right what Quebec is trying to do. Quebec will be able to have complete rule over us once it separates, I am one of those people who don’t agree with separation. What do you think?
That is what I think too.
Yes, many people think that. We don’t want the old government to let go of us. For the Quebec government was only recently with us. The government in Ottawa was with us for a long time. Hopefully, the
old government will see that Quebec is very wrong. It will probably be not as helpful compared to the old government.
I think when Ottawa first governed here, they really were sensible and trustworthy. Today, the government and the band council do not move in the direction where the ancients were.
If the Crees decide to go it alone, what will it be like?
Is there anything which he [natives] can use to support it? If there isn’t anything he can use, maybe it will be hard. If he is helped and sees it will help him, it will be alright.
During the trade when they took furs, you must have heard that they had to stack furs as high as a gun before they could get the gun. Imagine the price of that.
There were a lot of injustices to the native people in the past. That’s the way he [natives] could go if he can recover what has been lost. Truly he lost a lot. It would benefit the Crees to have things the way he sees fit and not have to go to the Whiteman every time to see what he thinks.