Cree communities in James Bay are working hand-in-hand with non-Native towns in the North to sendhelp to Montreal-area residents hit by the ice storm.

Hundreds of volunteers came forward in Mistissini to chop trees into firewood, load it onto trucks fortransport to the south, donate their own winter wood supplies and raise money. Crees have alreadysent several truckloads of firewood in a moving van to the South Shore.

“People got fed up with watching all the tragedy down south. Here we

were with the power on and comfort but we felt so helpless. We had to do something,” said Mistissini Chief William Mianscum.

A local resident came up with the idea of sending wood. “We checked it out and wood was on the list of things needed. So we started to talk to people. Now the whole town’s helping out,” said Willie MacLeod, community-development director with the band council.

Mistissini quickly found 100 men and 40 women volunteers to make four tree-cutting camps. Others in Mistissini are cooking food for the volunteers, and many residents have given up their winter supplies of wood to send south. A goal of 500 firewood cords, or 20,800 cubic feet, of split dry firewood was Mistissini’s objective. Thirty men in Mistissini split the wood donated by locals.

“I think we’ll meet that 500 cords goal,” said MacLeod at the start of the project, adding that the band would be calling other Cree communities to help out. To date, they have actually sent down more than the 500-cord goal and have cut 1,000 cords.

When the meeting calling for volunteers and action was held, it had to be moved to a larger building because so many people showed up looking for ways to help. “The whole community has come together to do this,” said Thomas Coon, vice-president of the Cree Trappers’ Association. “The trappers are proud to be part of this relief mission. We aren’t the only ones. All I can say is I am proud that we are trying to do something to help out.”

The Mistissini Recreation Association also sent down its brand new, one-week-old generator. “I don’t know if we’ll get it back but we couldn’t keep it while knowing people were freezing,” said an association official.

Chief Mianscum also got on the Cree regional radio to talk to all Crees. “We told the other eightcommunities what we were doing and said if you can find it in your hearts to help out then do it,”he said.

Two forestry companies, Barrette-Chapais and Chantiers Chibougamau, have donated forestry equipment and workers to haul the trees to the road. Chibougamau residents have joined the effort by donating mechanical wood-splitters. The moving vans were provided by Martell Express.

Nemaska hits the bush

When you drive through St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, you feel you are entering another world. The towers you see on TV are there in front of your eyes bent into weird twisted shapes. All the military vehicles remind you of some U.N. peace mission. They’re everywhere and they are cheerfully pleasant and in their element.

Power poles broken everywhere. No traffic lights are working and when you see a building light on, it seems there is the everpresent sound of a generator. In the middle of this Erland Campbell and myself went searching for wood. We had heard that Nemaska showed the ice storm disaster victims they had heart. Nemaska went and sent 100 cords of firewood in record time. The truck left Nemaska on Sunday, January 18, and was due to arrive Monday at about 1:00 p.m. The Nation news crew arrived while the wood was being unloaded.

Even though it seemed a huge mound of wood was there already, residents of St. Hyacinthe were pleased to see the wood. They know how fast it goes.

Andr_ Gaumond and Michael Smith, two local residents, said they were quite glad to see the wood and to tell the people up North thanks for the wood. Gaumond added, “We’ll help if something happens there.”

Thomas Jolly, of Nemaska, said the effort was something to see. “We have a small population andeveryone helped out. It took us four hours to load the truck and even the Elders were on the line toload the wood,” said Jolly. In fact, the truck was so tightly packed

with wood that some people were afraid it was overloaded and might not make it.

Patrice, one of the organizers in St. Hyacinthe, also thanked Nemaska and Mistissini for stacking the wood neatly. “This isn’t to put anyone down because all the help was needed and appreciated but it made things easier. Thanks again for the help and caring to the Crees,” said Patrice. He also said they would be presenting the local mayor with one of the pieces of wood to commemorate the help they received from the North.

Some Nemaska residents have brought the extra wood that couldn’t fit on the truck to the Mistissini effort. Several Nemaska locals also joined the Mistissini wood cutting teams.

Nemaska also donated $5,000 to the Canadian Red Cross.

Other communities

Ouje-Bougoumou has sent down generators. VVaswanipi is raising money and has already sent funds to payfor hotel rooms for some of the ice storm victims. “We’re doing as much as we can and will be lookingat other ways to help,” said Chief John Kitchen.

Margaret Cromarty phoned in to say that Chisasibi was also sending down wood. I contactedEdward Tapiatic, of the local CTA. He said Chisasibi has a project called the Woodshed Program wherethey hire six people to cut wood during the coldest months. “When we heard about the ice stormanother six people were hired to cut wood. Kepa Transport agreed to take the wood to where it wasneeded,” said Tapiatic.

In fact, Kepa Transport had already been bringing wood to the beleagered South Shore residents.According to Mary Bogellic, Kepa’s director of operations, they had been bringing wood fromVal d’Or on a regular basis. “We’ve done over 20 trips already,” said Bogellic.

Chisasibi also raised $10,000 as part of their participation in the Ice Storm Relief, of which$5,000 went to the Red Cross and the other $5,000 went to assist Crees in Montreal.