It has been a long time since we have gotten so many letters here at the Nation concerning one subject that we decided that from now and until the Agreement deadline we would have a section set aside for your comments on the Agreement. I was told that perhaps some wouldn’t be able to enter the debate because they might be unemployed, not have access to a computor or fax. Hopefully your band office would allow you to use their fax so that all can participate. Our fax is: 514-278-9914 and you can email us at:

To write to us see the masthead on page four.

Hello Everyone

Without Prejudice,

The new and now the most famous agreement in the aboriginal world has not only disturbed our people but has created a division among us and beyond.

It’s like a quiet sickness that has crawled in the middle of the night into the most sensitive elements of our nation’s ecosystem.

Life for the Cree has had many twists and turns over the years externally, internally and some that fit in the natural category. Natural events that helped us grow to become who we are today.

The most recent actions by our leaders is beyond words. In the last few days, our lives have been filled with questions, confusion, anger, anticipation and so on, but most important of all – it has brought each of us the time to reflect on our history and naturally to put some thought to our future, our children’s and the generations to come.

Approximately three decades ago similar events took place. Our grandparents put their older youth at the front lines to negotiate a future for us all. A historic agreement they said when they signed the JBNQA. An agreement that paved the way for our people to be one of the most recognized nations in the world community, but it was also an agreement that was supposed to pave the way for future development in our lands. Another Quebec Premier’s vision at the time.

The spirit and intent from the Cree perspective back in those days was simple. Take control of health and social services, education, economic development, etc. and administer our own affairs. We did most of that, but what happened to the rest of it? This is a question I personally need time to answer or should I be the one to answer, I don’t know but I am trying to put my own pieces together.

There is a land out there with the most beautiful sights the eye can see, incredible sounds the world’s ears can hear and enjoy. These sights and sounds tell the story of our people the generations to come would probably enjoy to hear beside a campfire, but nothing would more enjoyable if they would be given that same chance our generation has had.

There is a land out there that basically has one protector left in this world and that is YOU. There is land out there with natural habitat that depend on it and we depend on both. All the money in the world cannot even afford the price tag for this land. It is a natural gift that cannot be sold – like the morning you wake up and hear the cry of a new born child who has been brought to you to care and love. Priceless as they say. Priceless.

We are a people that decide what feels right from deep inside and not what we think is right. We will decide together not only for us, but for the future generations, the animals, the birds, the fish, the trees, the lakes and ponds, and the rivers that carry our story and their rapids that sing the songs of our people.


In brotherhood,
Bertie Wapachee

A Better Process

The process by which this Agreement in Principle was reached disrespects the Cree people on so many levels. First, we have always been a nation that abides by a traditional law or custom that has endured for 1000’s of years – we give respect to our people, to the land, to animals that walk upon it, to the trees and plants that grow upon it, to the water that gives us life and food and to the Creator of all of this. The process by which this Agreement in Principle was reached does not afford respect to any of this but seeks to trivialize our love and respect for all of these things without speaking or more importantly without listening to the Elders, the youth, the women and people of the land. The leaders that were put into place are to handle day-to-day operations, they are to protect our rights, they are to represent to the world who we are and what we hold dear, they are to be a channel whereby our voices and concerns may be heard by other nations and governments and they are a part of a sacred trust relationship to act in a manner consistent with our beliefs, culture, traditions and identity.

Our concept of property has always been different from the European view, which is land represents wealth and exploitation of that land means more money, power and prestige. To us, the land represents life, and the protection and respect of that ensures life for next generations of Crees to inhabit the land. We are not concerned with the maximization of wealth by desecrating the land and environment so that our children are left without a land to hunt or fish upon and can not drink the water or inhabit it. The actions of this process go beyond a mere deal, they seek to redefine our identity and to diminish our relationship to the land and everything associated with it. The leadership is not empowered with the ability to speak on our behalf when it comes to changing what it means to be Cree – this is a decision that we can only decide as a full Cree Nation.

There has been talk of the Resolution 2000-25 that the people, in recognition of the pressure by the governments and corporations, strictly FORBID the Cree leadership from negotiating a deal let alone signing one that would affect our rights with respect to the land or the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. The Agreement in Principle from beginning to end talks of nothing but our rights to the land and us relinquishing rights under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. The resolution while evidence of our expression that the leadership did not possess these powers is a mere indication of a much more meaningful oral law and tradition that they never possessed these powers. The fact that this Agreement in Principle goes to the core of what makes us Cree and disrespects our traditional beliefs of the interconnectedness of life makes it a decision that can only rightly be placed upon the Cree people to decide.

The information presented at the public meetings was incomplete and did not address the harms to things that would be most precious to us. Questions and concerns remained unanswered or simply ignored. It talked ambiguously of the monetary benefits but did not address the values of the costs we would pay. It only presented us with a small picture of what this would truly cost us and how broadly it would affect us. This once again disrespects us as it has never been our tradition to keep things from each other – especially things of this importance to our present and future.

The process cannot be final, or why would Premiere Landry have to sell the deal to the National Assembly. It cannot be final, or why would we need to sign a final deal in December. The parties to this are seeking the power to make this a real agreement so it would be unfair to make us bond. Also, as discussed above, the Cree signatories do not have the power to decide this in the way they have done.

What is a better process? One in which the whole nation can have input and decide the questions about this that need to be decided. The Cree Nation will soon gather for the holiday season, trappers will return from the bush, employees from jobs in the south and students from their studies. Each community should gather with its complete membership and ask important questions of what direction they see the Cree culture, lifestyle and whole nation going in the future. We need to ask if we will leave behind our ideals of respect for the land, water, animals, fish, food, trees, plants in lieu of future employment to exploit all of these and quite possibly poison them. How will this affect the goose and moose hunts of future generations? How will this affect how many fish we can eat in the future or whether we can drink the water? How will this affect our tourism industry if the land becomes more poisoned like it did with Ouje-Bougoumou? Should this decision be a consensus of all the communities, respecting the opinion of all the people, or should it be a democratic model where it is the majority that should decide on our direction? Do we have the right to take the land from our children and future generations, or are we a part of a sacred chain that has endured for 1000s of years? What does the Agreement in Principle really say? Are we okay with relying on oral promises of men that will not last for the 50 years of the agreement? Why do they need to develop this area – is there not enough electricity or is it the water they wish?

This process would respect the voice of all the Cree Nation, the idea that our future, culture and identity should be decided by the whole nation is more acceptable. The timelines of the Agreement in Principle and Final Agreement do not respect us and if there is truly a change in the provincial government that they wish to make a nation-to-nation agreement, they will understand and give us the opportunity to meet. This will be the test.

Annie Mouse-Cree

Letter to the Editor

October 23, 2001 marked a very important day in the lives of the James Bay Cree. This was the day that the Cree leadership signed an agreement in principle with the Quebec Government. This is the shocking news I (a Mistissini Cree) received on the morning the agreement was signed. The first thought that came to my head was, this can’t be true, our leaders wouldn’t sign any form of agreement without consenting us(the people) first. However, as the morning went on and as the news kept coming in, I learned that they had indeed signed an agreement with the government!! Our leaders tried to justify their actions by saying that they felt it was within their power to make this kind of decision without seeking the consent of the people that put them in leadership, us. I understand that this agreement was one made in principle, but it put our nation a lot closer to signing it without knowing it. The next thing I asked myself is why our leaders would try to become partners with a government that has mistreated our people since the day they set foot on our land? The Grand Chief, Ted Moses, says that we must put the past behind us and not dwell on it, also, that we must learn to trust. I was always of the opinion that we as individuals and as a people learn from the past, which is why we can’t put it behind us. The past is a vital part of our everyday lives, without it we would trust anyone regardless of what they did to us in the past. The government has given us many reasons not to trust them, I have not seen them give us any reasons why we should trust them.

On October 30, 2001 the Grand Chief along with John Longchap and other chiefs met with the people of Mistissini. I was fortunate enough to attend this meeting, however my brother, my sisters, my cousins and many friends could not attend because they are down south pursuing post secondary education. They too are being affected by this agreement and yet they can’t represent their views because of the limited time we have to sign the agreement. I hope that this letter can provide them with a glimpse of what took place in Mistissini. The feeling i got from the meeting was that our leaders had already consented to the agreement and all it’s content, and now they were trying to convince us to do the same. If you look at it from my point of view, you will see the government and our leaders on the same side because they both want us to consent to the agreement. On the other side is us, the people who are largely against the agreement. I say largely because the majority of the people I heard speak are against it or they need more time to consider. I thought that our leaders represented the views of the people and not just their own. While I was discussing the meeting in Mistissini with other people, we talked about how the Grand Chief was talking about his hunting ground that he inherited from his father. Part of his land is to be flooded in the proposed EM1/Rupert Diversion Project and he said he is willing to make that sacrifice for our future generations. If the Grand Chief is to receive a substantial monetary compensation for the flooding of his land, wouldn’t this put him in a conflict of interest in signing the agreement?

I have studied the documents surrounding this agreement and I also saw the fancy presentation at the public meeting, none of them has come close to convincing me that the Crees should sign the agreement. Actually, they have done the exact opposite. The views that I have expressed in this letter are of a moral nature, feelings and questions that came from the heart. I have also considered the technical aspect of the agreement and that too leaves many questions unanswered, I am confident that these issues can be addressed by Crees that are studying in the fields related to this agreement. I can see that this agreement has too many holes in it for the Crees to sign it; which brings me to my final question:

Why can’t our leaders see this agreement for what it really is… a bad one!

Kenneth Casey MacLeod(
Mistissini Cree Youth

To Grand Chief Ted Moses & the Grand Council of the Crees of Quebec

The following concerns have come to my attention, in light of the situation that the Crees of Eeyou Estchee are facing at this time. Finding the right solutions, which will benefit all aspects involved within this dilemma, not just the people but also including the land and what that has offered to our people since time immemorial. Any decision will greatly affect the future of us as a nation, but only the right decision will help us as a people in knowing where we have originated from, which is the land. I hope by making you aware of my concerns that it may assist you to look back and consider the overwhelming situation that befalls the environment around our people at this present time. Maybe these words will help you see the cause for my concerns as a Cree, speaking for Eeyou Estchee.

– At the Natural Resources Assembly there were some statements and resolutions from the people. Did they mean anything?
– In your acceptance speech as Grand Chief to the people; you said that no trapper has the right to sell his or her trapline, going back to our teaching that we belong to the land.
– Values of our culture that we are one with the land, that we cannot own what was given to us by chissamendo and that we certainly don’t have the right to sell it at any price.
– Are we being played into tying our hands and becoming part of an election process by the Quebec Government and to have separation become a reality?
– Crees have always had a structure of democracy, which was always there in the history of our people, and it is inclusion. When coming to decisions that concerned the people, all the people were included.
– Where is the good faith in the agreement, by the Government of Quebec? They have always dictated what they wanted and have always told us what we can do or say on how we live our lives. It has come to a breaking point for our future to live as a recognized people that are the original people of Eeyou Estchee.
– The Innu Nation has asked the Cree, Inuit, and Naskapi to stand for their own status as original people of this land. Making our own Government as Cree People.
– Nation-to-Nation can never happen with Quebec because in history there was only one Nation which our ancestors made treaties with and that was the crown.
– The Quebec Government and Hydro have always given us monies but have always had the last word on where and how we can spend it. If we do not follow the rules, they stop giving and our people suffer.
– Where are the guarantees on the continuation that the monies will keep coming for the next 50 years after they have gotten what they wanted? I am speaking on the changes to the Governments and the promises by the Quebec Government that they will continue to give us the monies for the duration of the Agreement.
– Sections 2.1 and 25.2 of the J.B.N.Q.A. have released and ceded all our rights as Cree people and why are we confirming what was written by entering into another Complimentary Agreement? Are we saying that we agree with what written in the J.B.N.Q.A?
– If the J.B.N.Q.A. is a modern day treaty as it is taken for granted, why was it not translated into Cree for our elders and our people?
– Why was our youth not educated and told of the true meaning in the contents of what the history of the J.B.N.Q.A. really states?
– The J.B.N.Q.A. didn’t work because it had no implementation agreement on specifying who was to carry out what was written in the Agreement. What will happen to this Agreement in principal? It has no implementation agreement, are our children going to come back to the table in 25 years like Romeo Saganash has pointed out in his statement?
– I believe that the reason we had the court cases against the Government was to show them that we have rights, which no agreements can ever take away from us as people, because GOD gave these rights.
– Our people still need healing from all the negative forces that have cut the meaning and link to the land, which was given to us as Cree people. When we begin to heal we find the values and the teachings that our elders still carry and have learned, this is the same knowledge that our people have taken millions of years to gain. How can we not use this wisdom for the betterment of our people?
– How do we as a people look now to the outside world, who have stood with us as our allies in helping us put a stop to some of the devastating projects that were to take place on Eeyou Estchee.
– The land will always outlast any amount of money that they give us.
– J.B.N.Q.A. took two years to bring to a reality with eight months of intense negotiations and we called this duress. The Agreement in Principal now on the table is asking to be ratified in two months; don’t you think that the principle of duress is playing a big role in this process?
– How come we never asked for any of the land back in this agreement that was lost in the J.B.N.Q.A. in 1975?
– Why didn’t we ask for free electricity for our people? I am sure that this option is not too much to ask in spite of all the devastation that has come to the land and the environment that our people are facing at this time.
– In closing, I recall the teaching of one of our elders who said; to know who you are is to know the history of your people, the history of the land and the life it brings to us as a people, and the history of the language, and that all that we are today, is :arried within the language. Knowing the meaning of this teaching will guide you in passing on the culture of our people, as Eeouch of Eeyou Estchee.

Yours in Brotherhood,
Eric R. House

Concerned Cree

A reminder…Cree leaders…

I read something the other day that startled me right out of my chair. I read in the 2001 January issue of the Nation it is rumored that some of our Cree leaders and entrepreneurs are talking of building a dam on the Great Whale River. Our leaders who have our trust! Holy smokes! Are they so brainwashed that they think they can put on the shelf all the years that the James Bay Cree have been battling Bourassa’s government? Battling them, without bloodshed, against further destruction to the land. Now I hear that there is talk of dams to be built on the Nottaway, Broadback, and Rupert rivers. I am shaking my head.

Remember when the Cree and the Inuit of Great Whale built a big boat, combining the canoe and kayak design? In the early spring a team of Inuit dogs pulled the boat over the snow and ice to Chisasibi. Two artists, one Cree the other Inuit, painted beautiful animals on it and then a big truck took the boat to Ottawa, where protests were already under way. Children, women, and men, including some chiefs, paddled all the way from Ottawa to New York to protest the damming of more rivers. That boat even went to Europe and floated on some rivers there. Now there is talk of damming more rivers…! think our leaders are out of their minds. I am thinking they have not lived on the land since a long time ago, maybe since they were babies when their mother, father, grandparents, aunts and uncles lived on the land.

How many of our Cree leaders can go out and live on the land, by themselves, the way our ancestors did just 50 years ago and before then? Not all of them. That’s because our leaders are so busy scheming up ways to make money so they can live comfortably in a house, surrounded by luxuries and getting ulcers at the same time from the food they eat.

How many of our Cree entrepreneurs can live off the land by themselves with just an ax, knife, rifle, fire starter, tent, snowshoes, and a canoe? Our ancestors did. The Cree people of the James Bay region did. Some people still live like that today. These people LIVE off the land. These people LIVE with the land. They do not need to change the land. They do not need to divert rivers and destroy delicately balanced ecosystems. They do not need mass amounts of money to survive. They do not need television, nintendo games, fancy trucks and fancy ski-doos, fancy cars, giant outboard motors, greasy fast foods, fancy furniture, and top of the line dishware. They do not, because living with the beauty of the land all around is enough for them. They could pass traditional knowledge and science on to their families. And how did they learn all that science? By carefully observing the animals and their interconnectedness with the cycles of nature.

All was peaceful until, Hydro-Quebec and the Quebec government came along with their ideas and machines to build dams on the rivers, secretly knowing dams disturb delicate cycles in nature. They came with their lies sticking out of their briefcases. Their lies to Cree people that everything is going to be all right and nature would not be disturbed.

Well dear Cree entrepreneurs and money oriented minds, what does it take to become like one of them? Them…meaning Those Who Destroy Rivers. The rivers that help Nature with her delicate cycles. The cycles that support life. They said that nature would not be disturbed. Mother Nature who fed you with fish and waterfowl. Who froze water in the winter so we may easily get to wild game on the other side of the river. Who gave us clean water to drink. Who gave us a road to travel on in the summer.

What does it take for Cree entrepreneurs to become like them? Them. Those Who Exploit Mother Nature. Those who created hell along the river. The rivers that were once clean enough to drink from with cupped hands are now filthy. We get our tap water from the river. Sometimes the water is too dirty even for laundry and housecleaning. Today we travel many miles to the fresh water springs for drinking. We travel many miles though we live right by a river

In the winter, because of the turbines in the dam, the river does not freeze, most of the time, it does not freeze at all. The wildlife on the village side becomes depleted. We used to be able to walk to the other side of the river to hunt. We cannot even slide down the river bank on cardboard and animal skins like we did as children. Because the river does not freeze, we would have been trapped on the island, so we were forced to move to the mainland.

River currents are increased and the water level rises when the turbines at the dams are opened to let water out of the reservoirs. The unnatural increased flow of water accelerates land erosion. Big clumps of land fall into the water. Sand deposits and stronger currents destroy ideal places in the river where people once put fishnets and caught many fish. The salinity at the mouth of the river has changed, affecting the eel grass, a main staple in the diet of water birds like the geese. Even paddling a canoe upstream is impossible during the opening of the turbines. Many years ago whole families paddled hundreds of miles upstream to their winter camps. When the turbines are opened the river current is stronger. So strong it drags-canoes that are anchored along the shore downstream, sometimes banging them against rocks and ripping the canvas.

Sure Hydro Quebec gave us money to compensate for the loss of our land and the loss of ancients ways of life for many people. We gave up too much for a small handful of money. Sure we have better hospitals, housing, schools and arenas. But we gave up a whole lot, a whole lot more than money can ever replace. We gave up so much, we can’t even drink the water anymore. And that is a lot, because now a lot of our people drink bottled water shipped in from some place else. We should be the ones shipping bottled fresh water out and profiting from it. Now we pay for our water and we pay for our electricity. Electricity made from the water that once used to be our very lives. We pay for electricity that should be as free for us, as free as the river once was.

You know, you leaders don’t have to become one of them. They who imprison beautiful rivers behind manmade dams. You don’t have to become one of them because you think that’s the only way to make more money. Don’t be one of Those Who Have Done Enough Damage. Hydro Quebec and the government have done enough damage. More than enough. You leaders who have our trust, you must remind Hydro, continually remind and hound Hydro Quebec that the little bit of money that they did give us does not make up for the whole lot that we have lost. They owe us a whole lot more. More than a small handful of dollars.

Even a full bank vault the size of France will not cover the pain that Mother Earth will feel when the capitalist industrial machines tear into her flesh. All her creatures will feel her pain. All the creatures that the Creator has put on her belly, to walk freely with their heads held high in the air. The humans who were put on her belly to live as one with the land and animals will feel her pain.

Dear leaders; I and many others, and those who will follow in your footsteps, have felt your pain from the beginning, in your battle against Hydro Quebec and the Quebec government. I know you grow weary and tired. That is Quebec’s strategy, to kill you with words. Lies and broken promises made up of words.

They want to wear you down and separate the strength that you have when you remain united as a Cree Nation. United on the earth where you were born.

There have been many nights that you have not slept comfortably in your own beds on the land you call home, and your people call home. We must not let Quebec and the others with their obscure insidious methodologies of controlling the world to sleep in our bed with their lies and false truths.


All This Talk of Progress

All this talk of progress reminds me of a story that I heard recently. It was about this tourist who was vacationing in Latin America. Each day he would watch this aboriginal fisherman go down to the docks and take his wooden boat out with a net and spend an hour or two catching seafood and then leave. After a few days, the tourist waited on the dock to talk to the fisherman. He said to him, “where do you go each day after you fish?” The aboriginal fisherman said “Why sir, I catch what I need for my family then I return home each day and relax and spend time with my children.” The tourist said “You know if you spent another hour or two fishing each day, you could catch more fish.” The aboriginal said “what would I do then?” The tourist said “why you could sell them on the dock and get money” The aboriginal said “what would I do then?” The tourist said “ well, you could catch even more fish to sell and make more money.” The aboriginal “what would I do then?” The tourist “why you could buy a bigger boat so you could go further and catch even more fish to sell and make even more money.” The aboriginal “what would I do then?” The tourist “well, you could use the money to set up an office and hire a captain to catch the fish for you.” The aboriginal “why would I do that?” The tourist “so that you could find more nets and boats and set up a fishing operation and make even more money.” The aboriginal “what would I do then” The tourist “why you could have a fleet fishing for you and selling your fish first here and then to an international market – you could build an empire” The aboriginal “how long would this take?” The tourist “with hard work and many hours a day dedicated to this, you could do it within 20 years or more.”

The aboriginal “and why would I build all of this?” The tourist “so you could become rich and do what you wanted” The aboriginal “what is it that you do when you are rich” The tourist “well, you provide your family with everything, and you have enough time to spend with your family and you relax.” The aboriginal “but sir, I already do all that and have all that now, why would I wait 20 or BO years to enjoy what I do now?”

I think of this story and ask myself what is it that progress or development really gets us. Is it the security and lifestyle that we already enjoy in the Cree territory? Is it so we can become rich and eventually be able to afford fishing and hunting trips with our children or live in a nice area around beautiful lakes and trees? If we proceed with a progress that hurts the beauty we already enjoy then when and if we do become rich – will we have to look for another area to retire in that is not so damaged or toxic? Who is it that is getting rich from these efforts anyway? It is not the average person in Quebec or Canada or the United States – it is large corporations and people that already have millions and billions of dollars that exploit natural resources for profit and do it without regard for the aftermath because it would interfere with the bottom line? More jobs are created for average people with environmentally conscience activities, should we not be in the position to control our environment to ensure no harm is done to it or to us, definitely the large corporations will not look out for us and the land when it might mean slightly lower profits (and it is only slight).

A Cree who wants to keep fishing

Cree Nation:

Please be careful: I smell a rat! This agreement with Mr. Landry sounds terrible. You will be paid to provide the services that the government of Quebec should be paying for. You will be providing these services with a very unrealistic budget.

With this agreement, the government of Quebec receives billions for your electricity and you receive nickels and dimes to provide services for your people.

If you receive a fair price then I should pay more for my electricity here in Southern Quebec-. I would rather pay more and you receive a fair price and be able to sleep at night. With this deal I am not certain I will sleep good at night, I will though continue to have cheap electricity and the government will make a fortune selling the rest to the Americans.

Peter Nagle
Beauceville, Quebec


Current Status of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou

The Washaw Sibi Eeyou are a group of some 200 to 250 affiliated members of Waskaganish First Nation, and Waswanipi First Nation. These members are living outside their affiliated communities of James Bay. The Washaw Sibi Eeyou are CREE beneficiaries under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and live primarily within the Territory governed by that Agreement. The term “Washaw Sibi” means literally “the bay of the river which flows to James Bay” and refers to the Harricanna River. The CREE ancestors of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou used to gather at the community of Waskaganish, in the Abitibi region along the Harricana River.

The present population statistics of the Washaw Sibi is rapidly expanding, whereas 200 are fully registered under the agreement. However, it is estimated that there are 200-400 people within the Pikogan community as well as the outskirts of Amos, do have an eligibility status to be registered as a beneficiary under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

While the Washaw Sibi Eeyou do not currently live in the Cree communities described in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, they nonetheless maintain strong ties with the people of these affiliated cree communities. In this regard, revised support resolutions in favour of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou have been passed by the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) / Cree Regional Authority 2000 Annual General Assembly, in collaboration of Waskaganish First Nation.

Background History of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou

The Washaw Sibi Eeyou were originally part of the group of families who lived in the bush in the southern James Bay area during wintertime and who would congregate at Waskaganish during the summer months. However, the Washaw Sibi Eeyou chose to trap in the most southern portion of the Waskaganish Territory, where the fur was of better quality. The Washaw Sibi Eeyou would therefore bring their furs down the Harricana River to trade at different outposts in the south.

Eventually, it became more convenient for the Washaw Sibi Eeyou to meet for the summer in the southern part of their traplines, near what is now the Town of La Sarre. The group met there every summer from a period beginning in the 1920’s to the late 1950’s.

In the late 1950’s, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) began to require the children of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou to attend residential schools. Certain of these children were sent to school at St. Mark’s in Amos and others were sent to Chapleau and Moose Factory in Ontario and to La Tuque in Quebec.

It seems that DIAND may have asked the Washaw Sibi Eeyou as whole to move away from La Sarre and made some efforts to group them together on reserves. In the early 1960’s, the group dispersed, with some members moving to the towns of Amos and La Sarre and others settling on these reserves.

The Political History of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou

The Pikogan Reserve was set up in 1956 and the Lac Simon Reserve in 1962. These Algonquin Reserves, along with the Wahgoshig Reserve in Ontario, absorbed the majority of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou from the early 1960’s onward. Many of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou have since become members of these Bands, while maintaining their status as beneficiaries under the JBNQA.

Apparently, efforts were made at the time of the initial set-up of the Pikogan reserve to accommodate the separate group of Crees by designating a part of the reserve for them. This initiative was however blocked by the Algonquin Band Council of the time.

During the consultations leading up to the 1975 ratification of the JBNQA, the Pikogan Band Council was apparently asked if its residents wished to become Cree beneficiaries, given that they resided on Cree Territory. The Pikogan Band Council refused this status on behalf of its Band members. The Crees who lived on the Algonquin Reserves at this time were forced to remain members of those Algonquin Bands, in order to continue to receive housing and other services.

The children of the Washaw Sibi generally receive their schooling in Algonquin or in French and English. However, the elders and parents of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou wish to pass on their Cree language, culture and values to their children. Some of these children are therefore sent to James Bay Cree communities in order to receive their instruction in Cree. Despite these efforts, the children find it difficult to be separated from their families and often return to their “off-reserve” homes.

The Washaw Sibi Eeyou recognize and respect the efforts of the Algonquin people to preserve the Algonquin culture and values by way of their Algonquin-language schools. However, this culture is distinct from Cree cùlture and values. Today, the traditional culture of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou CREE is often demonstrated on the behalf of the Algonquin culture. The Washaw Sibi Eeyou wish to expose their children to the traditions and values of their Cree ancestors.

Furthermore, the Washaw Sibi Eeyou members presently residing on the Pikogan, Lac Simon and Temiscaming Reserves are there due to the good graces of the respective Algonquin Band Councils. These Councils are also paying, to varying degrees, for certain of the benefits received by the Washaw Sibi Eeyou.

While some family situations are evolving in such a way as to blur the Algonquin-Cree distinction, the. Washaw Sibi Eeyou remain for the most part a distinct group on the Algonquin Reserves. The distinction between Algonquin and non-Algonquin family backgrounds is more important at Pikogan, Lac Simon and Temiscaming that at Wahgoshig, where the Band is not dominated by one particular native group.

Mission Statement of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou

To be recognized and to be fully integrated into the CREE Nation in collaboration with the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

To implement the services, the benefits and the rights to the members of Washaw Sibi Eeyou that is originated from the James Bay & Northern Quebec Agreement.

To reclaim our CREE traditional ways of life, our CREE heritage, our CREE culture and our CREE language after two generational declination.

The members of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou have clearly expressed a desire to improve their situation and integrate more fully into the Cree Nation.

New Direction of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou

After many various consultations, meetings, negotiations, obstacles, Washaw Sib Eeyou are determined to establish a new ‘Cree’ community. Washaw Sibi Eeyou are members are presently discussing the ‘chosen’ land base of this new community. This land base will probably be within the Washaw Sibi Eeyou’s trapline territory.

Concerning the Agreement in Principle

What’s in it for the Washaw Sibi Eeyou?

After two passed generations, since the 1930’s, the Washaw Sibi Eeyou has not been fully recognized as CREE people within the southern part of the Waskaganish historic traplines. After the ratification of the signing of the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, we were not included in this agreement. Upon signing of this Agreement, no benefits or services were provided to the Washaw Sibi Eeyou.

As we understand it, each cree beneficiary accumulated a certain fund in order to receive these service and benefits. But where does the Washaw Sibi Eeyou cree beneficiary funds accumulate? Today, this same question is still unanswered.


This ‘Agreement in Principle, will fully effect our future generations! Does the CREE NATION stand behind us?

On behalf of the WASHAW SIBI EEYOU.

The Nation

I am writing to comment on what I saw and heard in the community consultations at Waskaganish, Nemaska, Waswanipi and Mistissini. It is fair to say there was support for the Agreement in Principle the Cree leadership had signed. Some people were critical of the AIP and they tended to voice their concerns first in the meetings. Once they had spoken there were others in the room that asked questions about the Agreement or who expressed real interest in seeing it completed so that they could begin to enjoy the benefits.

There were a lot of concerns about losing the river. The river is part of our history and is very important to Waskaganish. The river has three Cree communities on it and was the route used to haul Hudson Bay Company goods and more importantly it maintained our relationships with each other. It was also an important travel route to the inland hunting grounds.

To this day the river is important for the Notimeshanan fishing site. The people who hunt in that area said that while he saw the importance of the fish, he also recognized the benefits that the Agreement would have for future generations. Some were disrespectful to the Grand Chief in the language they used and should have just stated their point of view. The majority of those who spoke supported the Agreement and wanted to learn more about it.

In Waswanipi there was support for the Agreement. Some of the youth expressed their support. People were generally interested in the impact of the agreement on forestry and seemed to be interested in what was already in the AIP. One elder who was obviously very emotional about the land commented that it was part of the heritage of the people and was glad that the Crees right to benefit from resource development is part of the AIR He also stated that this generation that thrived on hunting and fishing has an obligation to hand the next generation an opportunity to thrive in the contemporary way of life.

Mistissini was different only in that the Youth Chief Ashley Iserhoff spoke out against the AIP and the process leading up to it. Many of the criticisms made reflected a lack of understanding of the AIP. The majority of the speakers in Mistissini spoke in favor of the Agreement and these included elders.

In Nemaska there were young people and a couple of nonnative teachers who recently moved to the community, speak out against the AIP. They had a group of very young children, who could not have understood the complexities of the AIP bring in a placard against the Agreement. I felt that these children were to young to be involved in this way. The teachers were given a chance to speak and did so accusing the Grand Chief of selling out. I was particularly incensed when one of them suggested that the Crees look into alternative energy, as if the proposed project would be built for Cree energy needs. She should campaign in the south were they have an insatiable appetite for electricity which in turn causes the north to be inundated.

One of the Nemaska hunters monopolized the microphone for hours, which may have caused some people to be reluctant to speak. When the meeting was nearly over other members began to speak and expressed an interest in going forward with the AIP. The consensus in the room seemed to be in favor of the agreement, as expressed by Chief Wapachee afterwards.

Overall, I observed the most vocal critics were for the most part Crees in their late 20’s and early 30’s who said that they spoke for the youth and who also had good jobs in the community.

I was left wondering whether the youth who see that all the jobs in the community are taken and who wonder about where they would find work in the future think of the API.

I think that the AIP is the best agreement that is achievable at this time. It is government to government and the funding will make the Crees a significant force in the economic development of the territory. It is not a Nation to Corporation agreement.

The Cree government will take over Quebec’s powers and obligations to the Cree Nation and carry them out itself. Our right to benefit from extraction of our natural resources is respected.

With this funding we have a chance to make jobs for the future generations and to provide housing and community facilities for the present. We have to negotiate a final settlement and we will need to stand together if we are to succeed.

The Cree who are fortunate enough to have access to the Internet have an obligation to represent the facts accurately. I noted the comments made in the Yahoo James Bay discussion group about the fact that the Grand Chief received a lot of criticism in Mistissini does not respect this obligation. The Internet is a powerful tool not yet fully utilized by the average Cree Nation citizen due to high costs. The outside world who get their information through this medium need to be aware of this.

Bill Namagoose

Letter to Mr. Ashley S. Iserhoff

Youth Grand Chief / Chairman Cree Nation Youth Council

Dear Mr. Iserhoff,

I am writing to you in reply to your letter of October 30th 2001. I welcome comment that is aimed to better understand the Agreement in Principle (AIP) with the Government of Quebec. In your letter you raise several points that I will comment on:

1. You ask for more time to consider the AIP. From the signing of the agreement on October 23rd we have over two months to review and consider it and to elaborate the text of the final agreement. Consultations on the AIP and the final agreement will continue thereafter. I was involved in the negotiations of the JBNQA. There, the Cree negotiated an agreement of over 30 chapters in ten months. In light of past experience, I do not believe it is unreasonable to complete in two months these discussions with Quebec concerning in large part the implementation of one chapter of the JBNQA.

2. You claim the amounts provided under the AIP are insufficient. I have used financial experts in the negotiation of this agreement, as has Quebec. I do not know the source of your financial figures but they are misleading and substantially incorrect. Moreover, the adequacy of the funding going to the Crees should be judged in terms of whether it would be a significant boost to the Cree communities, to Cree employment and to our economy. I believe that it will be a very significant source of funding for our Nation. Indeed a minimum amount of $70 million per year is indeed a very large amount by any standard. It is the largest payment to be made to an aboriginal Nation in Canada in respect to economic and community development. The funding is far in excess of any other funding arrangement found in any other agreement signed by the Cree Nation. With the large amount of funding to be received, we will determine how we build our communities and economies. I have confidence that this financial resource will be used wisely by the Cree Nation and for the benefit of all.

3. You mention the fact that we should be the owners of the enterprises on our Territory in partnership with others. I agree and it is one reason that I support the present agreement. The funding provided and the new legal structures established, such as the Cree Development Corporation, will assist us in investing in enterprises in our region and in creating real partnerships.

4. You state that a Cree veto on development should be obtained. The Grand Council and myself have always taken the position that we have this right of veto. This is what we have argued before the courts. Though you seem to question whether this right exists, I have never doubted it. The AIP reinforces this right since Quebec is seeking our consent to specific projects. The Cree have always and will continue to use this right wisely and in the long-term interest of the Cree Nation.

5. As concerns the recent report on Ouje-Bougoumou metal contamination resulting from old mining projects, I share your preoccupation as does all the Cree leadership. This is why this issue was fully discussed with Quebec in the AIP. Thus, the AIP specifically states that its provisions “shall not affect the rights and recourses of the Crees and shall in no way affect the recourses of Cree individuals resulting from contaminants (such as mercury or other metals and substances) arising from the development of the James Bay territory”. In addition, the AIP specifically states that all future mining development will be subject to the applicable environmental legislation and to the environmental and social protection regime stipulated in section 22 of the JBNQA. In addition, since the release of the report concerning Ouje-Bougoumou, and in light of the new relationship with Quebec, the Premier’s Office has set up a task force to review the situation and suggest appropriate measures to address the issue. Quebec will also have to take measures with the people of Chapais and Chibougamau, as they do not seem to have been considered, to see if they share the problem with the Cree community. As I stated above, the problems stem largely from mines in this area that were approved before the James Bay Agreement. However,

I would like to know, as I am sure those people who have been at risk are eager to find out, just how widespread this problem is. We will do whatever is necessary to resolve this matter.

6. Greenpeace has helped us in the past on environmental issues. However, you refer to Greenpeace in your letter as somehow being the protector of our traditional economies. You seem to forget that it is Greenpeace that is largely responsible for the devastation of traditional aboriginal economies by initiating anti-fur campaigns. These campaigns have resulted in the demise of the economic basis of the traditional economies of most aboriginal nations in Canada including our own. We have been successful in preserving our traditional activities in part because of the ISP program and the numerous remedial works programs available for our trappers and hunters. This we succeeded in spite of Greenpeace and its anti-fur campaigns. Other aboriginal groups have not been as fortunate.

7. You mentioned tourism as a future potential for the development of the Cree economy. I know that some of the Cree miners who worked at Troilus invested their money in a tourism venture. Future development will have to be a balance of different activities, including Cree traditional pursuits, forestry, mining, tourism and hydroelectric development as well as manufacturing, construction etc. Not everyone is suited or wants to work in tourism. I say that we should develop all kinds of ventures, including tourism. The Cree people are ready to play a major role in the development. We have waited too long by the side of the road while others find work and investment opportunities in the Territory. The new AIP gives us the opportunity to look into all these possibilities and to choose for ourselves.

8. While there are those such as yourself who have work in the band office, at the Cree Regional Authority, at the School and Health Boards or in other Cree institutions, there are just as many other Crees who do not have jobs. I see many youth sitting at the back of the meeting rooms, silent and without a chance at employment. You, of all people, should be acutely aware of this. These people will need the jobs that we can create with the funding that we will receive under this presently proposed agreement. I praise the Cree institutions for what they have accomplished but we must work together because we have much more that needs to be done. By addressing the problems of unemployment and lack of community facilities we will help to motivate children in school and we will give people ways of addressing personal and family problems. If we decide to reject the AIP then investment in our communities and in job creation will have to wait while we spend our resources on legal and public campaigns. I would rather bring hope and a future to the Cree youth. Rhetoric is easy, but in the end it is the results that count.

9. You suggest that Quebec will punish us in the future if we do not conform to their wishes, by withholding payments under the new Agreement. You are wrong. The text of the new agreement will clearly protect these payments. With the increased economic strength that we will gain with the present proposal, we will be more effective in influencing public policy. We will work with Quebec in a cooperative manner to accomplish our goals. We have never been daunted by threats in the past to funding of the School Board or Health Board, just because we disagree with Quebec or Canada on some issue. What makes you believe that our resolve will be different in respect to economic development? We will continue to protect and strengthen our rights.

10. You say that the funding for “running” our community sanitation systems, fire services, creating community centers and “a host of other obligations” have not been properly considered. The cost of running the sanitation systems, fire services, and community centers is largely part of our Cree/Naskapi Act funding and comes from Canada. Some of the obligations of Quebec in section 28 are assumed by the Crees through the AIP. Quebec has contributed almost nothing to these in the past. The AIP will ensure a huge new contribution from Quebec for these purposes. This not only includes buildings, but also employment initiatives and help for Cree entrepreneurs as well as assistance for our trappers and hunters. In the past Quebec has paid minuscule amounts in regard to these matters. In the future the funding will be substantial. We have examined the numbers and they are correct.

11. I assure you that we have carefully done the calculations required to understand the funding. We have looked at the present value and we realize that the future funding will likely exceed the amount of $70 million per year as the resources produced from the Territory increase in volume and value over time. I do not accept your language in suggesting that we proceed with “blind trust” in this matter. I rather believe that it is you that is blind to the enormous benefits this AIP brings to the Cree Nation.

12. You refer to a General Assembly resolution concerning the protection of Cree rights. Please note that the AIP is in complete conformity with this resolution since Cree rights are in no way whatsoever diminished by the AIP. On the contrary, Cree rights are enhanced and reinforced by the AIP. The proposed agreement is an implementation of some of the Quebec obligations in Section 28 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. It in no way diminishes the rights of the Cree people. On the contrary, it implements and reinforces them, as the Crees have always demanded. The difference is that in the new agreement we, the Crees will decide the priorities. Moreover, you forget that at the last General Assembly, a resolution was passed specifically mandating me to negotiate with Quebec the participation of the Cree in natural resources development of the territory. I have been acting under this specific mandate in carrying out the AIP.

While I appreciate points that you raise in your letter, it prejudges the proposed agreement and does not reflect a considered understanding of it. Indeed, rather than allowing time for debate on the issue when we came to Mistissini on the 30th of October, you sent out the letter the same day and four days after your press release of October 26th wherein you imply that the process is an assault on our democracy. I am disappointed that someone who purports to represents the youth acted without giving time for due consideration of the issues, I have spent my life protecting Cree rights including our right to democratic process. We are faced with a unique opportunity. The offer before us could run out. Those who call for indefinite delays so that we can consider the offer at their leisure also assume the responsibility if the AIP is lost. I invite you to take the time to understand the reasons that things had so be done as they were and to understand the offer itself.

It would be sad if one of the most important opportunities ever for the Cree Nation were lost because of misinformed criticism. We have a tradition of dealing with our issues together and of forming a consensus on our position. You have violated our tradition by sending a press release attacking the democratically elected Cree leadership, by inviting Greenpeace and other non-Crees to criticize a Cree position brought by the elected leadership before even the Cree People have been able to understand and comment on it!

This is an important issue and one that will influence the futures of our communities and of our nation. We must act together if we are to build the Cree Nation.

Sincerely yours,
Grand Chief Ted Moses