A man once wrote those who control our knowledge of the past controls the present and therefore define the future.
Within the Cree world we are subject to more than the tales and legends of our people. We are overwhelmed with tales, legends and histories that are not our own and whether or not we realize it we are influenced by them.
In Cree stories, the hero(ine) overcomes a being that harms people. Rarely is there an overall theme involving an entire people as a focal point.
In mainstream society one only has to look at today’s movies where, for example, Captain America takes on the evil Axis powers and then Hydra. Even where you have individual evildoers they have followers. Past tales tell of Robin Hood and his Merry Men against King John and his minions, for example. These tales superseded the battle of individual against individual in past fables and fairytales.
In Cree mythology and tales it is rare to see this type of grouping of evil. It’s recognized that evil or bad actions are purely an individual choice. It is a truism and we can all acknowledge that. Not every German was responsible for the Holocaust in WWII. Looking at this world we live in, we must all realize that we are human and individuals. Today, evil can be done by individuals just as great good can be done, but somehow it becomes faceless as they are a part of a group or organization.
Within the Cree world we have been shown individuality is no longer as great a part of our way of life as it was in the past. The idea of nationalism and the mentality that results from its wellspring has invaded our society. One can see early roots of this in the residential school system, Indian Affairs, the RCMP and Hydro-Québec.
When Hydro-Québec came to the Eeyou Istchee, Crees rose to the challenge but it began with individuals. Crees remember the Project of the Century and those who acted to protect them. By the time Hydro-Québec’s Great Whale Project was introduced, Crees started to understand nationalism as Hydro-Québec wrapped itself in the flag of Quebec. Individual Crees still rose to the challenges and successfully fought that battle individually and as part of the Grand Council of the Crees.
But this has changed as individual wrongness has been replaced by the concept of wrongness arising from merely being associated with a certain group. Perhaps the best example of this were the attacks on individuals during the Paix des braves on both sides. Concerns and explanations were met with derision by a group mentality that resulted in eroding individuality while furthering nationalist methodologies and mentalities. This is just one of many examples that have ensured Cree individuals fighting against what they feel is wrong happens less and less, even though it was an integral part of the traditional Cree way of life.
These influences affect us today even as the telling of Cree legends and ways-of-life lessons have become less than in past years. Their loss is felt and as a people we need to regain and promote them. We need strong individuals to rise up and right wrongs as was done in the past. Without it the Cree future looks bleak indeed.