Interview with Josie Sam Jr. by ernest webb

My family and I were guests in Josie Sam Jr.’s hunting area during goose break. On one of our trips on the reservoir Josie pointed out the spot where they had camped. Instead of pointing off in the distance, Josie pointed down. We floated right over their old camp. Thanks to Josie and Janie for their hospitality and the best Biiyaow-Banicake.

We asked Josie about the place he was raised and how it has changed. Now, Hydro-Quebec wants to dam the Rupert and other rivers in Cree areas. We asked Josie about the effects.

The Nation: What is your name and age?
My name is Josie Sam Jr. and I’m 59 years old.

Were you raised on the hunting grounds?
Yes, that is where I was raised.

Were you sent to school also?
Yes, I was in school. I wasn’t in school too long, till I was 10 years old.

Did you live with your dad?
Yes, with my dad, on the river, where he used to hunt. Where I showed you. “Where we used to live,” I said.

Where was the area he used to hunt?
From where LG-1 is to around the LG-2
area is where my father hunted.

When you first heard that they were going to dam, what did you think? Did you think that it could be done?
I thought that maybe they wouldn’t be able to do it. I didn’t think things would be so fast. Suddenly it was done.

Where you showed us, where you’re winter camp was, is that where your family was all the time?
Yes, that is where we used to be all the time.

When was that flooded?
When they finished LG-1, is when it was flooded. Even as they finished LG-2, the waters were already rising.

Even before they closed LG-1 ?
Yes, I guess they opened (and closed the gates up) at LG-2. That sent a lot of water down.

You can’t stay next to the water anymore?
Yes, you can’t stay due to what they did; a lot has been destroyed. My dad and
myself got our living from the river. He trapped furs there, fish. Now we can’t eat fish from there.

Do animals use the river well?
Since they worked on the river, I don’t think the animals can use it well. It isn’t the way it used to be. Everything was plentiful, animals that were hunted. Today it’s as if there’s none, since the flooding. Maybe later it will be like it was before. But not now.

Do you think more dams should be built? When they talk about the money that can be had from it…
I don’t think they should, because it will destroy even more of where Crees live from. My dad wasn’t too concerned with money; he just got his living from the land.

What about the children growing up today – what would you tell them about the river?
I would tell them the way it was before, that the river was beautiful. It is used in many ways. We used it as our highway. In the winter also, we would walk it. Today, we can’t walk on it. Nobody ever walks there anymore. You were able to hunt on it as you made your way down the river.

It doesn’t seem like a river anymore?
No, not where we are. It seems like a very large lake now.

What if a time comes that they will find a way to make electricity and the dams aren’t needed any more – do you think the land would be used again?
I don’t know. I don’t know if it can be done. The earth that is under water floats up in clumps. That is what we don’t know about. It is lost forever.

Thank you.