A 160-year-old Hudson’s Bay Co. document proves that Crees have a historic attachment to the Lake Megiscane area, which will be flooded by Hydro-Quebec’s latest hydro plan.
Hydro-Quebec doesn’t recognize the Cree presence in the area. But the Cree presence is mentioned in an 1836 report of the “Michiskun” Hudson’s Bay trading post on Lake Megiscane, about 125 kilometres south of Waswanipi.
“The Six Indians who belong to this Post could very conveniently attach themselves to Waswanaby – the post to which they belonged before one was Established at Michiskun,” says the report.
The report notes that 259 male beaver were produced by the “Six Indians belonging to this post” in 1835-36.
The post was established in a strategic location to guard James Bay furs from outside “encroachments,” the report says. Especially annoying to the Hudson’s Bay Co. were “Wabanaku and Iroquois Trappers” and the “late Kings Post Company.”
The report paints an interesting picture of the fierce, often bloody, competition for James Bay fur. In the 1600’s and 1700’s, the British and French fought a war in James Bay over the fur trade. The war included violent raids and massacres of Crees by the intruders known as the Naataawaau, who were probably Iroquois. In one famous incident, a Naataawaau force was ambushed south of Wemindji at a portage known as Naataawaau Kipitaakin. Other battles erupted around lyiyuuschii.
Even after the fighting ended in 1713, vicious competition pitted the Hudson’s Bay Co. against the North West Co., private trappers and others.
The report credits the Michiskun Crees with helping to deterring the Iroquois from taking local furs in the 1800’s.
The report was made available to us by Mary-Jane Moore, chief of the Senneterre Crees. Moore saidtoday many Crees still live in the Megiscane area, which will be affected by flooding due to HQ’sproject. The Coopers, Wapachees and Marks all live in the area. Moore herself has a moose camp nearbyon a small lake near Lake Faillon, which would see its water flow reduced by 61 per cent by theproject.