When I first heard that Great Whale had been postponed indefinitely, all I felt was disbelief. I had to check things out myself. I mean, given the tenacity with which Hydro-Quebec promoted the Great Whale project, I did not think the war would be over so soon. No celebrations for this boy until I checked out the facts.

The facts: 1) The same day as Parizeau’s announcement, Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come was back in Washington for the second time slamming the PQ not only on the sovereignty question but also with the biggest ace the Crees had, Great Whale. 2) Four environmental review committees slammed Hydro-Quebec’s $256-million study on Great Whale. 3) Going ahead with the project in this light would have just confirmed the Grand Chief’s allegations in U.S. eyes. 4) It was a great public relations move on Parizeau’s part while allowing him to remain “true” to the Quebec voting public. And 5) even though it was postponed indefinitely, Hydro-Quebec is still continuing with the environmental review process.

So you can see Parizeau lost nothing in making this announcement. Since Hydro-Quebec has to redo the study and this might take years (two or more, according to the PQ government), the Great Whale project would’ve been put on hold indefinitely anyhow.

What the Crees have gained though is far more than just time. What we have gained is immeasurable. We are the first First Nation to have successfully said no to the dominant society’s plans for us and our land. We have regained our rightful control over the territory that the Creator left in our care.

We thought we had lost that in the 1970s and many of our people felt lost because of that. In the 1970s we were bulldozed over and shown we did not really control anything in our Cree world. This was something I always felt to be at the root of many problems that we as a people have experienced since that time. It is always hard to deal with the fact that strangers to your way of life and land say you are nothing and that all you are and believe in is insignificant.

Today with this victory we proved that to be a lie. The Crees do matter and we have proven our worth as a people, a culture and a Nation. Twenty years ago, we lacked the knowledge and language of the outside that we needed. We gained that knowledge and learned about the dominant society. In that time, the Crees made many allies around the world from the grassroots to the highest levels of the outside societies. It was this concentrated effort by Crees and their allies that made Premier Parizeau say Great Whale was going to be indefinitely delayed. I feel great pride in what we have accomplished.

The Cree war is not over and many battles remain in order to protect our rights and regain those Cree rights that were stolen. But these battles are winnable. We have proven this is possible and this knowledge makes us stronger. Our spirits will be lighter in these battles as the load is not as heavy as it once was. Great Whale was the symbol of our opposition to the erosion of our way of life and rights. We have a major victory and will continue to see more victories in the future. Now we must put the same effort into the rest of the problems facing us, whether it be our personal life, the community or Nation.

But now today is the time for a celebration of the spirit, strength and perseverance of the Cree people.