The price of sanity is the realization that you are walking in the dark, holding a candle and hoping there is no wind. The darkness is ignorance. Ignorance takes many forms and they creep up upon you without warning.
When you start thinking like that, it could be time for the three R’s: rest, relaxation and recreation. That’s why I headed home to Mistissini recently to get a little of the three R’s and discovered something. It’s not a new thing by any means but it is there. Even though you are relaxing, your mind refuses to let go of the problems surrounding you.
It started when I visited my Uncle Matthew Wapachee and his wife Maggie. As we were all sitting around talking he related this story to me. It seems that when he was looking to set up a new camp he thought of one area he knew would be good so he went to check it out. When he arrived he had found that one those all-too-common illegal squatters had made a tree house where he wanted to make his new camp.
The squatter was told that Matthew would be making a new camp there and he would have a year to dismantle his illegal home in the sky. The non-Native man asked if he could share the camp with Matthew. He was told no as there was little land left for the Crees compared to what non-Natives had. Matthew moved his camp the next year with no problems and no tree house.
Another story, unconfirmed, is that a couple of cabins on some other trapline were used to create bonfires that were great for roasting marshmallows. This may just be just the rural version of an urban myth, however.
In any case, it shows that something needs to be done. Grand Council spokesperson Brian Craik says the Cree and Quebec have been sitting down and talking. “A process needs to be finalized. It’s not just a matter of conflicts, which will take place even between non-Natives vying for the best places, but one of environment,” said Craik. He noted many lakes are only fed by small streams and they are fragile.
To date, Ouje-Bougoumou and Waswanipi have been mapped by trappers with GPS positioning that shows where all the squatters are located. The legwork has been done. But the Ministry of Mines and Resources doesn’t have any money to prosecute. There are rumours that the game wardens will be putting up notices to vacate while making their rounds looking for poachers and illegal hunters. The notices would give each squatter seven months to pull up stakes or lose their cabins and contents.
One can only hope that the politicians in Quebec City see the gravity of the situation before it’s too late. Other regions outside of Eeyou Istchee have funds to take care of these types of illegal activities. Solutions, though, seem to be in the works.
Let’s hope everyone can sit down and look at a mutually beneficial solution before someone buys some marshmallows.