At a recent Chiefs’ meeting in Montreal on September 7, the first topic of interest was the question of sovereignty. A report was submitted by the Eeyou Astchee Commission on its findings to date.

Philip Awashish said people are concerned about sovereignty in the Cree Territory. They feel things are getting worse and are worried about their children and future generations.

Chief Abel Bosum agreed saying, “What are we doing about youth development? There are youth centers but no development programs. I see a need for cultural development.”

Chief Bosum also shared Chief Diamond’s views about the sovereignty issue and PQ government saying, “I’m very skeptical about what the government will do. We need to expand and go on. What are the Cree rights?”

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come talked about tourism and small businesses before going into social issues. He discussed the wellness programs in several communities, extinguishment, self-government and other issues dealing with the social wellbeing of the people. He said Cree self-government plans are meeting with a testy response from the government.

An interesting part came when the Cree School Board was discussed. The Chiefs’ point of view was that the Quebec government controls and rules the education system through funding policies.

A discussion on housing saw a request from Philip Awashish to revisit O.J. and check out the centralized heating system. The idea was that innovative approaches to community planning might Various people attending the meeting expressed concern about the recognition of Cree traplines north of the 55th parallel. The Inuit are claiming this area which has always been traditional Cree Territory. There was concern that Crees do not know what the negotiations between Inuit and Quebec are regarding this disputed territory.

There was worry about compensation packages that encourage dependency. “I’m not happy with the present status quo,” said the Grand Chief. “We need a new source of revenue and we shouldn’t depend on compensation for revenue. Why shouldn’t we benefit from resources taken from Cree lands? We are in a better position to negotiate this and become masters of our own destiny.”

Chief Diamond stated that the JBNQA was supposed to be an evolving agreement, and that in his opinion it has been misused by the governments without regard to the intent and spirit of the Agreement Radisson was another point the Chiefs talked about They were concerned that this temporary community is being considered by Quebec as a permanent town for political purposes now that the referendum is coming up. A sign of this is that Quebec is considering giving Radisson the power to issue license plates. The only permanent communities were supposed to be places like Chibougamau and Matagami.

It was also felt that many government programs aren’t flexible enough to meet the needs of the Crees.

Chiefs talked about Crees doing a self-assessment of their needs and beginning the process of a Cree-language declaration and Cree constitution. It was recommended that this be done totally in the Cree language.