Pita Aatami, president of Makivik Corporation, and Grand Chief Ted Moses of the Grand Council of the Crees (GCC) signed an historic agreement on April 30th, 2003.

The signing of the agreement, entitled the “Offshore Overlap Agreement”, took place at the Cree youth centre of Whapmagoostui. Representatives of the Cree and Inuit communities and the negotiation teams were present.

This agreement confirms Inuit and Cree overlapping areas of use in the offshore area in James Bay and Hudson Bay.

According to Brian Craik, spokesman for the GCC, “The Cree and the Inuit’s interest overlap in the areas from the north of Chisasibi to north of Richmond Gulf. The federal government wanted the two groups to settle their overlapping interests before they’d sign a final agreement with them.”

With the signing of this agreement, the Cree and Inuit will negotiate with the federal government on future development of the offshore islands.

Cree and Inuit ownership of the islands will be 80% combined. The federal government would have title to the remaining 20%.

The agreement will later be annexed to the Final Agreements on Offshore Claims currently being negotiated by the Cree and the Inuit with the federal government. The Inuit seem to be further ahead in discussions, so it was important that this overlap agreement was signed in order for the Cree’s interest to be protected.

Craik said that this agreement had nothing to do with the Paix des Braves.

Negotiations with the Federal government should yield a sum of around $50 million in compensation to the Cree.

That sum does not include any future development of the islands in which the Cree would get at least 40%.

The process of negotiation for these overlapping areas has been long and arduous. Letters to the federal government date back to 1973.

Things started to speed up when Nunavut was formed and the islands came under Nunavut’s control. Nunavut set up impact assessment regimes and regimes for wildlife. The Cree didn’t want any decisions to be made by Nunavut without their consent, the main reason for speeding up the negotiation process.

Negotiations with the federal government can now proceed at a pace dictated by the Cree.

Lisa Koperqualuk, Communications Officer for Makivik Corporation, said that traditionally there has been a certain amount of fighting over these islands, and other lands between the Cree and the Inuit. This was due to the fact that both nations were afraid of each other.

In recent history, however, relations have been very amicable. “The arrival of the missionaries as well as trading between the two nations helped create a certain kind of bond”, said Koperqualuk.

“In places like Kuujjuaraapik (Whapmagoostui in Cree) people intermarry, and live in the same area, and they’ve done this for decades.”

This agreement is historic because it’s the first of its kind in Canada to be signed between two Aboriginal nations.