There was a king in the Old Testament who was troubled by dreams he had been having and so he gave a decree that they seek throughout his kingdom for anyone that could interpret his dreams. They found such a man and his name was Daniel.
I call upon all Daniels in the Cree territory to interpret the meaning and the significance of the following dream taking into consideration the present situations we as a Cree Nation are in today.
During the time of the community consultations regarding the agreement in principle for a new relationship which was reached between the Grand Council of the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and the Government of Quebec; I, like many of the Cree people in Eeyou Istchee, was deeply preoccupied by what this meant when we the Cree Nation were entering the new millennium. The positions taken by various camps in the Cree territory were many and heartfelt as the people laid out their hearts for the love of this land. The leadership was certain that this was the direction we needed to go. One night 1 went to bed and I received this dream….
I saw the community of Waskaganish pass by quickly, I realized that I was in a canoe and that I was handling the front end of the canoe. In no time at all we were at the mouth of the Rupert River heading out into the bay. In this dream, the state of the river itself was not revealed to me. As we ventured out towards the open water of the bay I asked my partner that maybe it would be better for us if we hugged the shoreline. I turned around to see who it was that was handling the rear of our canoe and lo and behold it was Matthew Coon Come. Matthew as you all remember was National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations at the time of these consultations. While I was in this position of looking over my shoulder I noticed that in the distance another canoe was heading in our direction. I indicated to my partner that we should slow our pace and wait for the canoe to catch up to us. When the canoe caught up to us I noticed that it was being manned by one paddler and it was my daughter Kitty Irene. “I have come to see with you the future that is to be revealed to you,” she stated as she wiped the sweat of her brow. So this was the purpose of our journey.
We continued on our journey and soon off in the distance I saw an island and a canvas tent that looked very inviting to a group of weary travelers. In a while we were there on the shore beaching our canoes and making our way up the incline towards the tent. What was strange about this experience was that no one had come out of the tent to greet us at the shore as is the custom of our people, nevertheless we were here at the entrance to the tent and I flipped open the beautifully embroidered canvas skeuatem to enter.
What greeted our eyes and our appetites was a feast of the finest Cree-prepared wild game that is available out on the land. There was fish, moose meat, moose nostrils, moose head complete with moose ear lobes and moose intestines. There was bear meat, blueberry paste and hot bannock on a stick and a pot of tea. I noticed squatted on the carpet of fresh spruce boughs the hosts that were so generous to prepare all this food for us. There was my late stepfather Billy Jolly, my mother and those of you who remember Ronnie Jolly of the Cree Hunters of Mistassini and the late Clara, his wife. After we had feasted we were prepared to continue on our journey. The late Clara inquired if we were the ones sent to see what the future will look like for the Cree People. I answered, yes, indeed that is what our journey was to reveal to us. She says as you head out continue to follow the shoreline and take the first river that comes out, follow this river and it will reveal to you the future that awaits the Cree people. We paddle up this river which starts off wide but then later it narrows and eventually just meanders very lazily as we went along.
During this period of community consultations one of my grandchildren had let us know that she was interested in owning and looking after a pet dog.
As we came across the numerous grass-covered points along this meandering river I was surprised to see on one of these points a wolf laying on top of this grassy point and playing along side her were these two beautiful puppies, yes puppies not wolf cubs. I noticed that this wolf was lame, I noticed that she was trying to get up but she was not able to move her hind legs, she was dragging her hind legs. I remember telling Matthew “my granddaughter had asked for a puppy,” noticing that the wolf was not able to move.
I asked Matthew to pull the canoe up close and hold down the wolf with his paddle while I take the puppies from her. The wolf was not able to do anything to defend the pups.
We headed out once again but because the river was meandering we would have to come back on the rear side of the point where the wolf lay. In leaving the wolf I notice that she is howling for her pups the howling was probably the most lonesome of all animal cries that I have ever heard. When we did finally pass the point again I notice that the wolf had dragged herself into the water and was wading towards us, we didn’t pay that much attention to her. As we headed out I noticed that her howling had taken on other sounds and noises that begged our attention. I looked back at her one more time just in time to see that she was changing and taking on this human form. What I was looking at now was this native person standing in the water. His face was worn and weather beaten, his eyes were sunken and hollow, his hair was in disarray and he looked absolutely drained and ready to give up on life. His jacket was a worn suit coat typically worn by our people from that time period and in his hand was a rifle. In a voice that quivered he cried out to us, “Give me back my children.” We paid no attention to him and continued paddling.
Again he cried out, “Give me back my children.”
A shot rang out and in front of the canoe this water stood up where the bullet had landed. We turned the canoe around, the warning shot had gotten our attention. In doing so the native person’s shoulders dropped, his arms dropped and in a defeated voice he said,
“Go ahead, take my children, you keep and raise them I can no longer raise and care for them, for there is nothing left out here on the land.” With that this human form turned towards the shore and again turned back into a wolf dragging his hind legs and sat on the grassy point where we had found her, the final cry she let out was a haunting one, a cry that sends chills up and down your spine.
We continued on our journey just enjoying the silence and the sound of nature all around with fish every now and then breaking water all around us. The river now seems to be widening again and just about the time we needed a much-deserved break we came across a camp and as we neared it, the camp dogs started barking to let the camp know that mandowch were approaching. Three elders came to the shore and helped us beach our canoes. Kitty Irene, though tired and weary, was still with us. The three elders invited us in to join them in one of the tents for some fresh nouchii-mii tea and hot bannock. When we had finished our snack and laid back awhile one of the elders asked us if we were the ones sent to see what the future looks like
for our people. I replied yes indeed we were. “From this point of your journey we will accompany you,” and with a motion of his lips to show respect for the river he pointed to an area across the river where we were to beach our canoes and from there would walk the rest of the way.
We were now three canoes in the water and one of the elders took and handled the front end of Kitty Irene’s canoe. Kitty enjoyed the comfort and the confidence of her new travel companion. No sooner were we in the water when we had to beach our canoes and travel the rest of the way by foot. The footpath was well beaten and it looked like it had been used regularly. The walk was easy as we traveled with our elderly friends and the pups which I had picked up were playfully running on ahead of us very much enjoying this part of our journey. In the distance we can see the tree line thinning out and the air was different, it felt very humid and as we drew closer to the opening that would reveal to us what was on the other side it got a little exciting. We saw this huge body of water and it didn’t make sense because we had been traveling inland, this could not be another section of the bay. In this huge body of water with no docking facilities were three cargo ships and a steady stream of canoes traveling to and from these ships unloading and beaching the cargo. One of the elders spoke and told us that these ships have been out on this bay now for a very long time and that the operations of unloading the ships has been happening generation after generation and it never seems to end. We continued walking along the shore carefully observing the ceaseless activity of the unloading and beaching of these ships.
In the distance we saw another lining of trees and beyond that we were informed by the elders, lay the future of our people. I could not tell what was on Kitty’s mind as we got this far in our journey but whatever she felt was comforted by the elder by her side never leaving her always communicating with her. I felt confident that she could handle whatever it was that was to be revealed to us on the other side.
As we reached the thinning of the tree line, the sun seemed to shine a bit brighter than we were used to and the air was different, we were breathing air generated by new growth of vegetation. We saw, for as far as the eye could see open fields with crops oh so fresh. One of the elders pointed out this is now how our people provide food for themselves. We continued on our Journey walking along the roads of this fresh crop and again another line of trees can be seen in the distance. The road leads to this line of trees and for awhile we break away from the road that revealed to us the new growth from which we were to survive as a people.
We saw the trees again thin out and again to reveal to us what else the future held. The next clearing revealed open fields and huge smoke stacks billowing smoke into clear blue sky. The elder with his hands open points to this scene and says, “This is where the people now work to provide for their young.” Kitty Irene was still with her elder companion she was now starting to look drained, but the elder was there constantly comforting her. In the distance we saw roads and highways complete with overpasses and people driving everywhere and we saw communities now complete with comfortable housing and all necessities to function as municipalities should. We saw all the modern conveniences and services available to everyone else now available to the people by the people. There we stood, the three of us including Kitty Irene and our three elders just immersed and silenced by what was revealed. The dream had ended here.
In February of 2002 the Paix Des Braves agreement was signed, forging a new relationship between the Grand Council of the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and the Government of Quebec on a Nation to Nation basis.
Now Daniel, what is the significance of this dream?
I encourage the Cree nation to build upon this dream. Take it apart, get your own interpretation and build your vision statements around it, build your economic development strategies around it build your political, social and educational agendas around it
I encourage you to take the significance of this dream and use it in your workshops, use it in your planning sessions, use it in your social sciences classes.