Respect is a two-way street

The fight between the Grand Council and the Municipalité de la Baie James has heated up recently as Cree policing, the Red Chute project and the proposed Cox Cree Lodging Camp have hit snags in some form or another from jealous or ignorant non-Natives.

Being a Cree in what can be a very racist and judgmental non-Native population in the north is not easy and there is one important bit of moral conduct notably missing: it’s called respect.

Category 3 lands are increasingly seen as a free-for-all zone for non-Native municipalities, with cockamamie schemes such as the SNC-Lavalin firing range and pig farm projects in Chapais, not to mention the Red Chute project on the Waswanipi River, which the Crees still have not been consulted on three years after the fact.

The list is extensive. Did you know that if you cross over onto a federated skidoo trail on your own trapline with the day’s catch, without the proper permit, that you could be fined?

One of the scariest examples of the blatant disrespect for Cree people is the dump located on Chisasibi’s Cox family trapline. Within the dump, used principally by Hydro Quebec, are a number of recycled materials, thick electrical cables, industrial equipment including stoves and the most shocking thing, caribou carcasses that have been killed and pillaged by poachers.

The carcasses are almost intact, with their bellies ripped open and gutted. Their limbs, heads and fur are all visible. They have been dumped in with the rest of the everyday trash from nearby LG-2.

These caribou are part of the Cree cycle of life. Is this any way to thank the Cree for letting these dams be built on their land? What about the caribou? Do these people have a conscience or any respect at all?

Does the Paix des Braves’ “New Relationship Agreement” mean anything if it is not enforced? Where are the game wardens? What is the MBJ doing about it?

Respect is, however, a two way street. One of the complaints from many people of mixed blood in the communities concerns the racism they experience at the hands of their Cree brothers and sisters for being “white.”

Racism on either side is what it is – ugly, divisive and cruel. It especially has no place in Cree society, a society that thrives on respect and patience and above all, understanding of others.

Through ignorance, a man like former Radisson Town Council Member Gilbert Hamel used to dislike the Crees. He admits it. But he also said that once he met a few Crees and learned about their way of life he changed as a person.

Now he is trying to help Josie Cox get his camp started, which has won him only hate from his former neighbors in Radisson.

Racist views of non-Natives by Crees could be explained by bitter feelings brought on by the rapid encroachment onto Cree lands and a shabby treatment at the hands of non-Native business people who routinely refuse to rent rooms to Cree clients. That way of thinking should be a thing of the past. If you are discriminated against, report it to police, the GCC or your band council. That is a start.

If that does not work, call us here at the Nation.

There are good and bad people in every society, but blaming non-Natives for everything and hating them because of the colour of their skin makes Crees look exactly like the people they detest. Is that something we want to teach the future generations?