Well, one day, we were all out there walking together. I mean everybody was there from five Cree communities, the leadership, the trappers, the townies, the Elders, the youth, the business people. When I say everybody I mean everybody. The leaders gathered us around and said we were needed. They told us it was time to walk together, hand in hand, to fight forestry companies coming on our land and hurting it. Many a trapper and tallyman was invited to come forth and put their names on a court case to search for justice for the trees and the Crees. Your voices mean something, we were told. It felt like the leadership had reconnected to the people once again.

Of course that was overturned by an assembly of chiefs making illegal decisions under either the JBNQA or the Cree-Naskapi Act. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A chiefs’ meeting means nothing. It was never envisioned in the first place, let alone empowered under any act or regulation or law concerning Cree government, yet it is out there running rampart.

Just why do I go on about these things? Because not only did a chiefs’ meeting ride roughshod over a consultative process that lead to the forestry court case, but it ran right over the idea that in the end the Cree people were the ones to have the last say.

It makes a mockery of the concept of Cree consent meaning the will of the Cree people. From where I stand Cree consent is at least, as Billy Diamond put it, a decision of the full Council/Board of the Grand Council/Cree Regional Authority. But now, if the chiefs are superseding even this, then Cree consent has taken another ride down the trail to meaning nothing. One vote for one person is becoming one vote period, it would seem.

Given that the will of the people seems to mean nothing to the leadership, then how can we trust them and Quebec concerning our other Cree institutions? Remember back when I freaked out on Issue No. 5 of the Cree-Quebec MOU Agreement: the nasty little rider that says regional entities and organizations are to be reviewed by Crees and Quebec with an eye to abolishing some, merging others, streamlining and maybe changing a few mandates here and there.

Don’t worry, we were told, as “Cree consent” was needed. From my chair, given the forestry case turnaround, I can see Cree consent doesn’t mean the choice of the people but whatever the chiefs decide. No doubt for our own benefit. After all they have the big picture and peons like ourselves who are not of the intelligensia or power elite will just have to put up with whatever crumbs of democracy are tossed our way.

Without some honouring of and needed changes to the Cree decision-making process, that’s all we will ever get: the crumbs of democracy. One writer called one of the previous Grand Chiefs “the benevolent dictator of the North.” Could this apply to the whole leadership?

Recent actions show Cree leadership is acting with carte blanche and little accountability. I predict the gutting of valued Cree institutions in the future, following yet more stale court cases that seem to be just a prelude to negotiations.

If this is so, next time you want to do a power play for the negotiating table please leave the people out of it. It just destroys the leadership’s credibility all around.

I am not even saying the decision to suspend the court case was wrong. But the actionstaken were. After empowering people the leadership did not even give them a semblance ofletting them in on the decision to suspend the case or not while negotiating. Thisarrogance and actions of the leadership in the end is the true disappointment.