Not since the days of the Great Whale fight have I seen Crees on the streets of a city gathered to protest. It was a group of students banded together to fight the Cree School Board’s move to the new Cree building in Old Montreal.
I am neither for or against the move, recognizing the validity of arguments on both sides of the issue at hand (see our news story on page 7). Nevertheless, I felt a surge of pride watching the students that day. I don’t know if they or the Cree leaders who they talked to realized the significance of their action.
To me, the protest brought home the words the leadership has used on other occasions itself. That the Crees must no longer have the Indian Affairs mentality. This mentality was to allow others to decide the future for them. Indeed, all Crees have talked of taking back control of their lives. We’ve been seeing more of this in the past few years. The so-called dissident groups in some communities, the Eeyou Astchee Commission, the Wellness Gathering in Mistissini, the Elders’ Council, just to name a few.
Now, the students looking the Commissioners of the School Board in the eyes. It startled a few of them from what I could see.
Something else I could see is that the Cree world is undergoing another change. More and more, we are becoming masters—and mistresses—of our own destiny.
In the past when confronted by the outside world (i.e. La Grande Complex), Crees relied on the few to lead them. Those who knew the outside system and could help Crees walk a path through all the pitfalls. At one point a Cree leader was even referred to as “the benevolent dictator of the North” because of this heavy reliance and responsibility.
Those who were our guides did their job well. Now there are many Crees who understand the paths. I commend those early pioneers for their hard work. No longer are the Crees a passive people who follow blindly. Now we are becoming stronger and through that our leaders will become stronger. The Cree Nation as a whole can only benefit from this.
The students will graduate and they will be knowledgeable and productive members of their respective communities. Every action they took in the protest was peaceful, respectful and within the boundaries of the Cree system. I felt pride witnessing Cree democracy in action when they pleaded their case.
The actions undertaken by the students filled me with hope. As I have said, I am neither for nor against the issue of the move but my pride is for the future that I saw through what they had done.
Indeed, because of them and others of like mind and soul, Cree democracy and our people can only benefit. The king is dead, long live the revolution.