The Cree Nation’s associations for trappers, crafts and tourism have come together for the sake of a common goal: delivering the goods.
In late December the Cree Trappers’ Association, Cree Native Arts and Crafts and the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association signed a memorandum of understanding to see how the three entities could better work together.
“The three associations have a memorandum of understanding that they will work together on projects to benefit the Cree communities so this is a very nice thing,” said Thomas Coon of the Cree Trappers’ Association.
Rather than each association going their own separate direction to benefit themselves, with the new MOU, they will try to coordinate efforts and improve communications among themselves. The CTA will be able to provide hides and tanned furs to the artisans from CNACA and through the deal, COTA will be able to participate in the marketing of those products.
According to Coon, the MOU also makes a great deal of sense because all three entities were created under Section 28.5 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement when it was signed 33 years ago.
“It is a very good relationship, joint venture and partnership that will strengthen all three and this is a very interesting endeavor for the future,” said Coon.
The MOU will not prevent any Cree hunters or trappers from selling their wares elsewhere, however. Though most Crees sell their products through the CTA, they are also always free to do so anywhere they choose.
Considering that fur sales have slumped internationally with the economic downturn, the joint effort might also help generate more sales and profits in the long run. Coon said that though the CTA will usually sell up to $500,000 annually, sales were down as low as $200,000 last year as the market for high-end items has been so sluggish.
According to Kenny Mianscum from CNACA, the MOU has been in the works for several months and came about because the associations have similar mandates.
Originally, the agreement was only supposed to happen between the trappers and CNACA, but when it came time for CNACA to present the proposal, members of COTA happened to be in the room and suggested that they take part in it because of their marketing mandate.
Though their mandate is to create and promote Cree arts and crafts, Mianscum said that there has not been a tremendous amount of production on behalf of CNACA in the last few years as they are still working on establishing costs for the products and what payment should be to the artisans.
Since CNACA was established a few years ago, much of their time has been spent on establishing what direction to go in. Mianscum said that though they have met with community Elders and other members, there never seems to be enough time to be able to devote to the Elders to learn every aspect of the arts and crafts products they are looking to develop on a larger scale.
In this vein, Mianscum said that in the New Year, the three groups will be coming together set up a workshop or conference on culture, traditional knowledge sometime in 2010. With all three parties coming together with the community Elders, each group may be able to more clearly define their roles and what they could contribute.
CNACA is working to establish prices for goods such as mitts, gloves, hats, moccasins and other handicrafts. The information will be posted on their website once prices are determined. Mianscum also said that they want to see what kinds of other products are being made in Eeyou Istchee that can be sold through the site.
“This will be a good opportunity. We are trying to create a market out there where our artists will be recognized and also receive wealth and this is what we are working on now,” said Mianscum.