At times in this world of ours, people ask for assistance in attaining what they feel is justice. Often, like Freddy Jolly, they attempt to right the wrongs of their world themselves before asking.
This isn’t unusual in the Cree world, where tallymen are respected and valued. The respect and value of such a person comes because they are resourceful and knowledgable people who have defined tasks, duties and responsibilities. Not only to themselves and their families but to the land and animals in their care. In the days before Chiefs were created by Indian Affairs, there were only the tallymen. These responsibilities of caretaker were and are not lightly given. The people who take them on must carry heavy burdens.
They feel the weight of the world pushing in on them these days as bureaucrats bury them in red tape and priorities that do not include their values, responsibilities, desires or knowledge. Often the files concerning them seem buried in some dusty backroom to be forgotten as they will be forgotten. It is a situation that non-native Canadians, many Crees and other natives are used to when dealing with the goverments at times, and what they occasionally get from big business.
It is a relatively new situation for Crees to find themselves in when dealing with each other. In the old days I’ve heard that if a respected community member like Freddy Jolly felt strongly about something, he would have gone fishing or hunting with the Chief to discuss it. Those informal days are gone and the red tape has invaded our lives as our leaders turn more and more to bureaucracy. They are not to blame for this since the Cree world has become more and more complicated, and the only systems that we know of dealing with it are the established Euro-Canadian models.
Today we see the growth of a Cree bureaucratic society alongside traditional Cree society and they have yet to fully integrate into one single Cree society.
Freddy Jolly’s story (see Cover Feature, page 10) has to be read to understand how this bureaucracy has come to dominate our lives. I eft by the roadside is the sharing, respect, compassion and the traditional role of the tallyman. These things make up important components of the Cree way of life. We all try to hold on to them but sometimes somebody slips through the cracks. Freddy’s story is a lesson to all of us.
We must start to take control of this new world of ours and define how we are going to deal with it. Implementing the Cree Trappers Association Annual General Assembly resolution #141/93, entitled “Development projects involving Cree entities,” would be a start (see page 12 for the text), as well as finally implementing the Grand Council/CRA mandate to create a code of ethics for public officials, passed at the AGA in 1990. It would help to begin the process of integrating the Cree principles and values to make our bureaucracy more responsive to the needs and desires of our society.
When a tallyman says he feels this much pain over something a Cree entity did to him and the land in his care, there is something wrong. We would be fools to ignore this omen. We must do something to reconcile all parts of Cree society. Our future is at stake and we are not helpless unless we choose to be.