Voices From The Odeyak by Michael Posluns
1993, NC Press Ltd. (Box 452, Stn A, Toronto, Ont., M5W1H8)
If you read one book this year this should be it. If Cree schools are looking for relevant books about the recent history of the Crees, this is one for your students. If you ever wondered about why the Crees went to the United States to battle Hydro-Quebec’s proposed Great Whale project, then read this book.
This book tells of the joining of two peoples, the Cree and the Inuit, and how they built the Odeyak, a combination canoe and kayak, to combat a threat to their livelihood. It contains the history of not only this trip but the events leading up to it and what happened afterwards.
When one reads Voices From The Odeyak they will be amazed that this trip was not only successful but that they made it to New York.
The boat was hand-built by an Inuit boat-builder named Billie Weetaltuk. Dogs had to be imported from the Inuit community of Povungnituk as none were available from Whapmagoostui or Kuujjuaraapik. For some reason still unknown, the RCMP in the 1950s came into Great Whale and shot all the dogs.
The Odeyak was then taken by dogsled to Chisasibi where it was greeted by the entire community. The long trip to New York had begun. You will meet native Nations and individuals who helped the 60 odd travellers.
To say that this was a difficult trip is not an exaggeration.
This book takes you into the many different worlds that affect our people—the legal, the media, southern societies, the political, the grassroots movement, the historical and the land as seen through the eyes of our elders. While it doesn’t give you the complete picture, it is the closest thing I have found to it.
As a person with a voracious appetite for reading, I fully endorse and recommend this book to you. You will find it enjoyable to read. What could have been a boring book on the logistics of the native opposition to the proposed Great Whale Project is saved not only by the author’s great style of writing, but by the voices from the Odeyak— the Cree and Inuit people.