If you believe the words of doom and gloom that were bandied about days before the election for Grand Chief, the Cree Nation will be in ruins and rubble by this time next year.
One of the items on former – yes, that’s right, former -Grand Chief Ted Moses’ website warns that the guaranteed $70 million owed to the Crees will stop pouring into our bank accounts. Another states that the Cree Nation will not be viewed as credible people to negotiate with. Yet another says there would be a loss of forestry protection, a loss in jobs, loss of funding for expanded health services, loss of game wardens. The most frightening for us law-abiding Crees is that we will lose our peace keepers. In other words, the Cree Nation, if it voted for Matthew Mukash, would plunge into a state of total anarchy.
Imagine the headlines in future issues of the Nation; CREE BANK ACCOUNTS EMPTY!; ENTIRE WORLD REFUSES TO DEAL WITH CREE; EEYOU ISTCHEE’S FORESTS GONE FOREVER; PANHANDLING EPIDEMIC!; DIALYSIS MACHINES REPOSSESSED; BANDS OF POACHERS RUNNING RAMPANT!; CRIME RATE SKYROCKETS!; MUKASH IN HIDING AS MOSES REBELS TAKE NEMASKA!
It looks like the only people who are going to be having any fun in our future are poachers, criminals and headline writers.
Moses’ website wasn’t the only source of such dire warnings. A Mukash hater from Whapmagoostui phoned and apparently warned the Mocreebec people that his hometown candidate was a vile pagan sorcerer, or words to that effect. Luckily for Matthew Mukash, Mocreebec voters recognize and resist demagoguery. Or it could be that they just prefer to have vile pagan sorcerers as their chiefs, I don’t know, I’m as baffled as you are.
A very similar accusation was reported to have been broadcast over Mistissini’s airwaves just before the run-off election by someone who shall, for now, remain nameless. Fortunately, for the Mistissini media’s sterling reputation, the hapless and lowly radio employee who authorized such slander to air was severely admonished. On the air or not I do not yet know.
I really didn’t foresee it, but my colleagues and I were dragged into the filth when the Grand Council’s website used a critique of Rezolution Pictures’ award-winning documentary, One More River, to stage a pre-emptive strike against Matthew Mukash weeks before the election. The website’s authors practically accused me of being just being another drunken Cree party guy (guilty!), and characterized Mukash as some Svengali-like character pulling the strings and manipulating the filmmakers for his own gains.
Fear mongerers and demagogues, whether they win or lose an election, do make a huge impression on voters, judging by the entries in the www’s tedmoses.com guestbook link. Many of the site’s entries contain petitions to God to spare the Cree Nation from certain apocalypse now that Matthew Mukash has been elected. Many expressed true fear that Mukash will only bring misery, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth to our Nation. Perhaps those reactions came to pass because of the heat of the moment and people will soon come to their senses and realize that it was only politics.
My only prediction in this election that even came close to being true was that it was going to turn dirty. But even I was surprised to see how low some Cree politicians have sunk. I didn’t expect Cree politics to actually soil itself. So I guess I was only half right.
I’ve been following Cree politics with pointed interest now for about 20 years and tracked its lumbering and steady metamorphosis. I remember elections past when a candidate’s campaign consisted of posting their resumes, with a one-page platform tacked on, at the local Northern Store. Then, maybe, they might go on-air for a chat at their local radio station.
In those long-gone days they might as well have campaigned for their opponents. That’s how docile the candidates were. It didn’t matter who won then. We still stood united, the stakes were low and no one had anything to lose save a high-paying job and maybe a smidgen of pride.
I don’t know when the exact turning point was, but I remember listening to a candidates’ debate on a CBC North broadcast several elections back. Back then, I believe the field was comprised of no more than six candidates. Mistissini candidate Kenny Loon had the floor when all of a sudden Ted Moses interrupted him. I don’t remember what Moses said, but I do recall Loon’s response. I find it difficult to translate his reaction into English so I’ll attempt writing it out in Cree phonetically. Bear with me. “Boyh! Shash Jimayayhjen!”
I remember finding Kenny Loon’s reply so funny, and so Cree, that I burst out laughing. I found the incident unusual enough that I related the story to several of my bored and apathetic friends. Perhaps that was when the change began, I don’t know. But I bet those disinterested friends of mine were following this election and actually went out to vote.
A prediction regarding future Cree elections: Desperate, yet slightly more sophisticated and subtle fear mongering and actual kissing (yuck!) for photo ops of bawling Cree babies. Yuck!