The article dropped like a bomb in the Cree world. After a long silence, former Cree Grand Chief Billy Diamond made a stunning return to the public eye with a cover story in the August issue of the Quebec magazine L’Actualité.
In the nine-page article. Diamond made many surprising revelations and allegations about the inside workings and politics of the Cree world. (See excerpts on p. 21.)
Headlined, “I am a Cribécois,” the magazine cover says Diamond “denounces the parasites who orchestrate the ‘Quebec-bashing’ of the Crees.”
In the article, Diamond, 51, doesn’t hold much back. Described as the “founding father of the Cree nation,” he comes out swinging in the first sentence: “This interview is a declaration of war!” Diamond says Crees must accept development projects. He also backtracks on his fight against the James Bay megaproject in the 1970s: “I dreamed of seeing all the projects of Hydro-Quebec erased from the map. I wanted every tree to regrow. But that was an idiotic approach. You have to look to the future.”
He says he is declaring war on the Grand Council of the Crees and “all the influential white agents – lawyers, anthropologists and other ‘consultants’ – who he accuses of manipulating the Indians.” It’s not the first time L’Actualité has gone on the attack against Cree leaders. The magazine has been criticized for years as being anti-Native.
In the latest article, Diamond attacks Cree leaders for their “lack of vision,” saying they seem to enjoy humiliating Quebec. He also says Cree leaders acted in “bad faith” by rejecting a forestry deal with Quebec last year. He describes the Cree actions as “dishonest” and “very pathetic.” Asked to name his favourite Quebec “prime minister,” he replies: “Ah! There’s no doubt about that, none: René Lévesque!” He calls the late premier a “friend” and boasts of helping him write a speech.
The magazine says Diamond didn’t run again for chief in Waskaganish because he “was disappointed with Cree politics.”
He also singles out his old friend and longtime Cree legal advisor James O’Reilly for criticism. Diamond says O’Reilly was rude to both Cree chiefs and Quebec Native Affairs Minister Guy Chevrette.
Like a good number of the other claims in the article, the accuracy of this claim is being questioned. O’Reilly disputed Diamond’s version of the events and said L’Actualité never called to get his side.
As for why he didn’t run for chief. Diamond did not mention that his time as chief left Waskaganish on the verge of bankruptcy and in danger of being put under trusteeship. Community members elected Diamond’s main critic, Robert Weistche, as chief in a record landslide. Diamond didn’t return a phone call.