When it comes time to write the history of modern-day Cree trailblazers, Grand Chief Ted Moses will have his own chapter. There are those who might praise him to the skies and those who may criticize him just as much, but none can deny he has had an historic impact on the Cree of Eastern James Bay. The Paix des Braves agreement he signed with Quebec Premier Bernard Landry on Feb. 7, 2002 will run for 50 years.
Moses called it a new nation-to-nation relationship between the Quebec Crees and the government of Quebec. Proponents of the agreement say it is the first time that Natives in Canada will fully benefit from the exploitation of resources from their territory. Critics said it too easily surrendered traditional Cree demands. But in a closely contested election the following August, Moses narrowly won re-election, with the agreement playing a central role.
Moses didn’t just wow the party faithful in Cree and Quebec politics. He was named Man of the Year 2001 by l’Actualité magazine, which cited the negotiation of the Paix des Braves as the reason. The honours didn’t stop there. Moses would be named as an Officer of the Order of Quebec in May 2002, and La Presse, on January 19, 2003, said Moses had been chosen as the “Personality of the Year.” No one knew that this man, born on his parents’ trapline, would travel so far. Moses started out as a band manager, then acted as a translator in the Malouf court case that established Cree rights to the land in 1974, and finally served as the lead Cree negotiator in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement negotiations. After the signing of that agreement, he was the Director General of the Cree School Board. He returned to his community in the 1980s to go into the bush and to become Chief of Eastmain and in 1984 was elected Grand Chief. After Matthew Coon Come was elected to that position in 1987, Ted took on new responsibilities. Then Moses really began to travel. As well as being hired as the official Cree Negotiator with the federal government, he was appointed as Cree Ambassador to the United Nations. There his international career would take off. In January of 1989, Chief Moses was elected as the Rapporteur for the United Nations meeting on the Effects of Racism and Racial Discrimination on the Social and Economic Relations between Indigenous Peoples and States. He is the first Indigenous Canadian and indeed the first Indigenous person to be so honoured.
Moses is recognized as a United Nations expert. He made the original submission in Vienna calling for the creation of an International Decade of Indigenous Peoples, and the establishment of a Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations.
Ted Moses represented the Grand Council of the Crees at the World Conference on the Environment in Rio. At the World conference on Human Rights in Vienna, he was elected to represent all of the Indigenous peoples of North America.
In 1996, the University of Saskatchewan awarded him a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa, in honour of his international human rights work and his advocacy on behalf of Aboriginal peoples. That’s why we call him Dr. Moses.
Currently, Dr. Ted Moses is the President of Cree Energy Distribution of Canada Inc. as well as leading the Grand Council of the Crees.