Having been reelected by acclamation on July 29, Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Stan Louttit hasn’t skipped a beat, continuing to work diligently on the major projects that are most important to his people.
From the way it sounds, he is hardly even taking time to celebrate. While he laughed at the notion that perhaps no one else could do the job as well as he could and so why even try to vie for his job, Louttit has his nose back to the grindstone to ensure progress for his people.
In discussing what the Ontario Cree communities under the Mushkegowuk Council could be anticipating during his upcoming four-year term, Louttit said the biggest focus would be on ensuring that all-season road network for the communities to be connected to the highway grid completes the pre-feasibility phase is of the utmost priority.
“As most people know, to undertake these kinds of major projects, you can’t always get all of the pieces in place in a six-month or one-year period. Sometimes it can take several years,” said Louttit.
This project will see the connection all of the Mushkegowuk communities, including Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Moose Cree and Moosonee, with the southern highway corridor in the Cochrane-Timmins area.
Louttit said the pre-feasibility phase is almost completed save for a few communities that have yet to go through the consultation phase for feedback but that the process has been going very well.
“We have had very positive comments from the people and really haven’t had anyone saying that this is not good as we all see the necessity and the requirement of an all-season road and moving forward for quality of life and decreased cost of living and all of those factors as well,” said Louttit.
Aboriginal employment and training programs to ensure that the people of the region are included in the employment boom resulting from the road construction is another priority that the Grand Council will be focusing on and Louttit said they will be looking to the federal and provincial governments to ensure this happens.
Also ranking high on the list of priorities: resource revenue sharing from the mining boom that the northern sector of the province is experiencing. Much like the Cree territory in Quebec, Mushkegowuk territory also has major mining projects slated for development and rather than just seeing a measly few million handed out from the mining companies, Louttit said his people want to be major players in any development on their territory.
In particular, Louttit was talking about the area dubbed the “Ring of Fire” that is slated for major mining development by Noront Resources Ltd among others.
“They sound good but they pretend to consult with you and pretend to accommodate you and just give you a couple of million dollars to make you happy, but we are not going to be satisfied with that. What we are saying is that we want a revenue-sharing agreement as they are going to be making millions of dollars off our land and we are not going to be satisfied with just one or two million. We want to be major players and be part of the ownership of the company. We are looking at this as the sky is the limit here,” said Louttit.
Whether his communities will have the legal grounds to do so in terms of their treaty is another story. At the moment the Mushkegowuk Council is gearing up to debate changes that were seemingly made to Treaty 9 in 1905 by the Crown and province.
As diaries of the commissioners who originally worked out the treaty with the Cree ancestors of the territory have been uncovered, it has been shown that what the Cree were agreeing to wasn’t reflected in the treaty drawn up by Ottawa and Ontario.
Louttit said the Mushkegowuk are hoping to come to a decision on how to proceed when they meet for their Annual General Assembly on September 19.
Other than that, Louttit said there are also other projects that the Mushkegowuk Grand Council will be keeping an eye out for and ensuring that Attawapiskat finally gets the school it was promised by Aboriginal Affairs.
“It has been sidetracked twice already by different ministers and so I want to be working closely to ensure that they have a good project. We are regularly communicating with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to see that this is moving forward,” said Louttit.
And, as always, while all of this is going on, Louttit said the reclamation of nationhood to see the Mushkegowuk communities evolve with greater self-governance will also be another constant focus.
Despite the enormity of these projects, Louttit is determined to see that they all come to fruition.