It was an exciting 30th anniversary for the Grand Council of the Cree Eeyou Istchee. In some ways it felt like Crees were getting back to our roots when Freddy Jolly came walking in from his long trek to save the Rupert River. His talk to the assembly seemed to spark something off because over the next few days chiefs were proposing that an energy commission be set up to examine Cree community energy needs.

With Whapmagoostui’s electricity costs at over 20 cents a kilowatt hour and the Wemindji Band paying 33 cents a kilowatt hour it is a good idea to take a serious look at how we do things.

It’s true that some of these things were looked at back when the Crees were in New England fighting Hydro-Quebec’s Great Whale Project but that was 10 to 15 years past. Perhaps new eyes and enthusiasm will see a few things we didn’t back in the day. I can only hope that those who proposed this undertaking will see it carried through.

I recently sat down a read a book called Sam Smith’s Great American Political Repair Manual. It has some great ideas that may of assistance for the commission and the communities.

How planning has traditionally been done

Plan emphasizes major new building and destruction of old landscape.

Plan assumes significant physical changes.

Planner’s vision takes precedence over the community’s values and desires.

Citizens are seen as a problem: dysfunctional, “at risk”, unable to understand the vision.

Plans and buildings dictate civic life.

Plan aims at meeting goals of largest businesses. Small businesses are often evicted to make way for new projects.

Community remains primarily an importer of goods and services, economically dependent.

Money coming into the community flows out again quickly.

Outward physical order conceals inner social disintegration and alienation.

Plan fights or exploits nature, adding to eco-logical disequilibrium.

Plan emphasizes mobility – moving people considerable distances for work, services, shopping, entertainment, and recreation.

Plan relies on numbers, dollars, and aggregated phenomena.

Plan is skewed heavily toward presumed economic results. Social and cultural consequences are downplayed or ignored.

Experts are outsiders selected by the local or national government.

To the average citizen, the plan is boring and difficult to understand.

How it could be done

Plan emphasizes renovation and restoration of existing buildings and landscape.

Plan assumes preservation of physical and social character that brought people to the community in the first place.

Plan reinforces community values, desires, and social organization.

Citizens are seen as an asset, sources of talent and ideas.

Existing civic life determines nature of plans and use of buildings.

Plan emphasizes central role of small businesses.

Community develops goods and services to export or use itself. Emphasis is on economic self-sufficiency.

Money coming into the community is re-circulated, using community-based commercial and financial institutions, such as credit unions and cooperatives.

Anarchistic, jumbled, or even decaying facade conceals a well-functioning and complex social system.

Plan works with nature, seeking to mitigate past damage, create green solutions, and restore ecological equilibrium.

Plan emphasizes access – keeping things people want and need as close as possible.

Plan relies on individual experiences, stories, mutual hopes, and dreams.

Plan has a holistic design, including everything from the economy to the environment and from cutting crime to embellishing culture.

Experts come from, or are selected by, the community itself.

To the average citizen, the plan is exciting and easy to understand.