Looking back is always, as any police officer will tell you, difficult. If 10 people witness a crime you’ll have 10 different stories and many of them aren’t the same thing the others experienced.
Another problem is summed up in a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche when he said, “I have done that,” says my memory. “I cannot have done that” – says my pride, and remains adamant. At last – memory yields.”
We all change personal history to make ourselves not only look good but to live up to what we want to be, both for ourselves and others around us. One only has to look at the legends our Elders shared with us. If a kid was bad, then he or she might find the name of the evil or bad character would be theirs. Techno-legends, a modern oral innovation, have been told. One I remember is about a youth who bragged about his powerful snowmobile and how it could take him to places people hadn’t hunted out. His dad challenged him to a contest to see who would get the most partridges or other small birds. In the end the father won because as he put it, “That thing is good for getting you someplace, but you need the snowshoes to listen to the land.”
Why I bring this up is because it is the 40th anniversary of the first time all the Cree leaders of the Eastern James Bay met to discuss the “Project of the Century” as then Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa called it. The project proposed damming the Nottaway, Broadback and Rupert rivers to create electric power.
The 1971 meeting in Mistissini took place from June 29 to July 1, and it was the first time coastal and inland Cree leadership had even met each other.
Many have stories of the first time we got together to talk about the James Bay hydroelectric project. There would be more stories about meetings concerning the Cree and the project that would eventually change the face of the Cree Nation.
This issue gives us a unique look into our history. While it might be a little different from what you have been told or saw in documentaries, it is nevertheless something you will have to consider.
The first meeting was recorded, documented and, for the first time, shared with all Cree through the Nation. There were hours of audio, extensive field notes and photos that back up and authenticate the page 10 feature.
It is such an important part of Cree history and one that deserves to be shared with all Cree. Before this the many Cree communities did not have the same type of interactions that we have today.
It really does not matter how the tale is told, some will remember the truth and some will remember the legend. It is a choice we all make, but in the end we should have the choice and no matter what, we will honour those who have made the trails we tread upon today. Who knows which paths the Crees will blaze in the future and the stories they will tell of how they got there? Merely to have the strength and commitment to continue a nation’s journey is more than enough.