I just would like to drop a few words to The Nation and the public in general.
I supposed we could have never stopped it even if we were to know what the Quebec government was planning to do when they started surveying the northern territories of then-Ruperts Land in the 1930s and 1940s. But then again, we had no choice but to accept the invader of our land due to the situation and welfare of the people.
Starvation and lack of education at that time played a major role, and most importantly, the federal government was giving the natives monthly allowances for food and rent of houses and threatening to cut them off if the parents didn’t send their children to the schools. The gun was pointing at them and they had no choice but to obey them.
In the early 1960s, they came again to kill all the dogs of the Inuit people and they had no choice but to watch the RCMP police go to each household and go up to each dog with their revolvers, shoot them in the head while their owners watched and they couldn’t do anything. I remember my grandfather’s reaction that time, going back and forth to the house and inside the porch and out to watch the slaughter.
He couldn’t keep still and he said to no one in particular,
“Where’s my small gun,” and I understood what he meant that time, since we know that .22 long or short rifles and 30-30 military issues were the only guns at that time.
He couldn’t stand to watch his only means of transportation and independence being wiped out, his only means of getting food on the table to feed his family. And we didn’t even get compensated for that. Nowadays, with the high prices of skidoos and out-board motors, we can’t afford to get them, and if the federal government were to help us in getting these machines, it would help a lot and we wouldn’t feel taken advantage of.
Then again, this happened again in 1978 when we had no choice but to watch them build the La Grande River dam even though we protested against it—them saying we were too few people and the majority of the Quebec people who benefited the most were down there and us being most impacted up here having no say.
Here we are again in the 90s and the same scenario is being played again with the proposed Great Whale River Dam being built and our concern being denied, and we have no say again even though we went through the process of hearings.
How many times do we have to make the same mistake to learn the lesson that we should have learned in the first place? Aren’t there organizations that were supposed to help us like the Human Rights Commission, the United Nations, the World Council, the federal government, and lastly and not the least, our own organizations that were supposed to listen to us but are making arguments without the final say of the people who voted for them in the first place.
How many times and how many “more” times?
Sappa Fleming is the former mayor of Kuu-jjuaraapik.