The events of the past two days made Nemaska seem like a genuine capital with a capital C. High political drama or comedy, depending on how you look at it. The Gang of Five’s breakup letter is finally brought up at a public chiefs’ roundtable. No locked doors at this administration’s first pow wow, where rookie Chief Robert Weistche posed the question that’s on, one would hope, every Cree’s mind.
“I want to know from the two chiefs who are still here why they signed that tetter to Matthew.” Grand Chief Ted Moses turns to Mistissini’s chief. “Chief Kenny Loon?” All heads turn to a flushed and almost squirming Loon. My heart went out to him as he began, “It was never my intention to break away. There was a lack of progress, a lack of coordination from Romeo. I was accused of signing secret deals, something I would never do. (I was) under pressure to find information. There was no intent to sign an agreement. The sole purpose was to find information.”
He concluded his address with this bombshell: “I told Matthew it was a mistake for me to sign the letter.” This lead me to wonder, why would he consider it a mistake having signed the letter if its sole purpose was to find information. Hmmm. Let’s all break up into little groups and discuss that one.
Grand Chief and Chairman of the not-very-bored, Ted Moses, then turned to Chisasibi Chief Violet Pachano. She began, like the true politician she is: “This is the first time it’s been asked of the signatories about the letter.” In my notes I quickly scribble and underline, “B******t.” She went on to parrot Loon’s explanation. “(There was) never any intent of breaking away.” She continued, “When you’re under pressure, you sign.” Hmmm. Under pressure from whom?
A Cree Regional Authority representative suggests that the council “find out from the leader, why he did it,” and asks, “Do the people with lots of files have the time and energy” to work effectively on their portfolios? Something we’ve been questioning for years. Waswanipi CRA rep Robert Kitchen comments, “George’s the only one who read the letter. He’s the only one who didn’t sign.” Wapachee mumbles something.
A short discussion follows and partial blame is placed on the fact that we Crees speak both English and Cree, and something being lost in the translation. Memo to the chiefs, rookies and veterans: Hire a press officer if you don’t like dealing with the press! Conclusion: It was all a misunderstanding if you believe their explanation. Or: The letter speaks for itself. And Weistche still isn’t afraid to ask those tough questions.
Other items of interest:
Two Hydro-Quebec representatives walk in while the Grand Chief is addressing the assembled. Moses turns to them and asks, “Are you the Hydro representatives? They nod, yes. Moses tells them they are scheduled for later in the afternoon and jokes (I repeat, jokes) that this is still the “War Council.” They seem hurt and insulted as they walk out the conference room. Light laughter from the council.
Later, well-known Grand Chief election candidate who knows how many years running Eddie Pachano spars with the Grand Chief on the composition of the Cree negotiating teams. Eddie seems confused, but he doesn’t seem to think so. “You’re wrong Eddie!” Mr. Pachano, staring dead ahead, says: “I know what I’m talking about!” You go girl!
Billy Diamond is dropped as negotiator on the MOU and offered the Offshore Islands file. Former Chief Abel Bosum to replace Billy on the MOU talks. Whoop de doo! Cree-Naskapi reps mandate to expire next month. Council votes to keep them for another term. Yippee! Nemaska Chief Wapachee informs all that Nemaska wants an inquiry into the treatment of Nemaskites in the 70’s when the project was announced.
Cree cop Reggie Bobbish honoured by Governor General. (See News, p. 7). Other council subjects: Matthew Coon Come and Billy Diamond to be honoured for their years of service to their people. But don’t tell them just yet – they’re not supposed to know. We know they never read this column.
Finally, one to look into: Creeco. proposes a casino in Val d’Or, a.k.a. Las Vegas of the North, Sin City, Sodom and Gonnorhea. This is quickly placed on the agenda for the next meeting in Montreal. Nov. 30, Dec. 1, and 2. Let’s rearrange our schedules for that one.