As a woman from the Cree Nation of Northern Quebec, I have difficulty in understanding the reasons stated as to why Quebec wants its position on separation to be respected. It has not afforded the same to the peoples who welcomed their ships on our Northern Quebec shores with complere openness and warmth. The peoples of that day taught and shared with them their hunting and trapping skills, usage of traditional medicines and how to survive in the harsh northern climate. To this day, it is still our way—to share and teach our way of life.

First, (I feel that) the government cornered the Crees of Northern Quebec to sign the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement by informing them that if they did not sign, they would be left out and miss an opportunity of a lifetime —to be included in the plans for an independent and economically rich province. Can you begin to imagine…?

During this time, they were already in the process of clearing the forests and making roads into the James Bay area. They were blasting, gouging out, damming, displacing… They were transporting heavy equipment to complete the job —all without our people’s consent. For as long as I can remember, the logging trucks have been coming out of our hunting and trapping homelands with full loads of what were once beautiful (earth-cleansing) majestic trees. The hunting and burial grounds of our people were already in danger way before the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

Our gentle Elders were broken-hearted as they witnessed their way of life being jeopardized— in their face! They saw their great great grandparents’ burial grounds being drowned by a force they were not equipped to understand.Their way of life on Mother Earth had not prepared them for this type of destructiveness committed by man.

Next, the government broke promises it itself had made with our people upon the signing of the Agreement. Not only did our people feel powerless —they also felt cheated and hurt. They were made to feel that they were not an important part of the process which (I feel) was wrongly entitled “PROGRESS.” If the government gets its way, our youth will have very little to look forward to. Some will never be able to visit their own grandparents’ burial or hunting grounds! The practice of passing down and sharing of hunting stories from their parents will indeed be a sad loss. The youth of today will only be able to rely on memories shared about our self-sufficiency and self-reliance on the land.

Even the animals (our respected brothers) are confused. Their migration routes have been destroyed. Their future is as displaced and as sad as ours will most certainly be —if the monster named “PROGRESS” is allowed to continue… without the full comprehension and consent of our gentle hunting and trapping people.

I understand the government’s wish for the province to be rich, independent and powerful—as the Crees are rich, independent and powerful—by practicing their way of life with honour, dignity and respect to Mother Earth. Through maintaining our way of life, we have a sense of purpose, a great sense of undeniable pride, but most of all we have a sense of family and belonging.

Perhaps the government should take MORE TIME to consult with our people and our gentle peaceful Elders. Perhaps through sharing and communication it will be possible to find a way to come to terms with what each requires—in order to continue with our way of life.

If Quebec is really serious about separation, it should be better prepared to deal with past wrongs with complete honesty and dignity before making any further decisions on behalf of the people who welcomed them off their ships for a warm meal with an honest curiosity and willingness to share… with RESPECT.

TELL ME… What is sacred? Of what is the Spirit made? What is worth living for? What is worth dying for? The love for the sacred/spiritual/living/ dying land is…

Quay! Hello! Bonjour! My friends know me as Louisa. I speak Cree, English and French. I was baptised with the name Emily Louise Mianscum. I was brought up on the land and taught to respect everyone’s spirituality. My mother’s name is Charlotte Rose.

My dad, Tommy Mianscum, was a hunter/ trapper, a friend, a father, a man with a strong living heart, a busy man, always on the go. In February of 1986, as he crossed the road in Waswanipi on my brother Sonny’s brand new ski-doo, a car came from around the bend at full speed and struck him. His plans that day had been to dismantle his tent at a hunting camp. He died within 15 minutes. I own one thing from his living days—his hat. I was married that same year on July 26th. I miss him…

My wild and fun-loving uncle Samuel Capississit, hunter/ trapper, was struck and killed by a train (there were no warning bells, lights or gates).

My 5-ear-old niece, beautiful, happy little red-haired Ruby, was on a toboggan during the Christmas holiday season. She was struck and killed by a logging truck. Her best friends—my then very young brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews—witnessed this.

There are many more stories out there… These are only a few of mine.