It’s the great Canadian pastime—talking about how much government costs us. It’s now starting to be a Cree pastime as well.But people are unsure of the figures, what they mean and how to get them.

All the figures included in this article are public information that any Cree can request. Most are available right at your local Band Office. In fact, it is an offense under the Cree-Naskapi Act for anyone to deny you or a representative designated by you access to your local band’s financial information. In effect you can look at anything you might be curious about, including financial information kept by them.

This issue, we’re going to bring you the salary ranges of the chiefs as well as the costs of negotiations with southern governments and the Eeyou Astchee Commission. All names, sources and communities are anonymous. This was so the people could feel free to talk about money issues without having to take a stance or position. All quotes are from chiefs and one high-level band employee.

A few figures aren’t in as yet, as some chiefs hadn’t returned phone calls or wished to divulge their actual salary as they were negotiating a higher one. We’ll bring you those figures as soon as possible.

Chief 1 – $39,000-60,000. Depends on experience as decided upon by band members.

Chief 2- $60,000+. Initial figure decided upon by Band Council. Later ratified by members in a general Band Meeting.

Chief 3 – $55,000. Decided by the people in a band meeting.

Chief 4 – $66,000.

Chief 5 – $60,0001st year with increases of $5,000 per year. 2nd term – $75,000 with $5,000 increases. Local Band General Assembly resolution determines the salary of the chief. Last resolution took place in 1992.

Chief 6 – $50,000. Decided upon by local General Assembly.

Directors of operations (average salary range) – $50,000 to 62,000.

Top salary at The Nation – $18,720
Trappers (average income) – $15,478.84
Note: To show the growing income disparity between low-income and high-income Crees, we included the average trapper’s salary.

“We earn our money. You have to look at the amount of time spent on the job. It’s not a 9-5 job.”

“I work a good 12 hours a day on the average.”

“Look at the job of a chief. You’re a full-time diplomat, negotiator, social worker, economic development officer, community liaison. You name it and chances are the chief is involved in some way. That’s why we earn our money the hard way.”

“I would like to see those who are low-income have ways to increase their income. Some people, though, are comfortable with welfare and even ISP. There are employment opportunities for those who want to work in our community.”

“We are looking at ways to change the income disparity.”


(All figures below for the time period April 1/95-Dec. 31/95)

Coordinator – $34,545.47

Casual Labour – $4,500

Commission Travel – $155,855.89

Printing and Publication – $26,608.58

Legal Advice – $12,838

Professional and Technical Fees – $65,535.70

Commission Honorariums – $243,878.58

Contingency and Unforeseen – $25,721.43

Total – $569,484.12

Note: The commission honorarium total was divided up between 20 people. Some got more and some less.


“We should determine the importance of the commission and predetermine a cap on how much we are willing to spend on it.”

“Some of the members had double hats (other jobs) and that shouldn’t be the norm. You should withdraw from your regular job if you are chosen as a member of one.”

“I’m still waiting for the final report. Perhaps there were some distractions?”

“Negotiations and commissions are both expensive and you have to look at who you have and the results—if it’s a good investment or not. Does the result benefit the Crees as a whole? You pay for what you get.”

“There are problems with the amount of money people are asking for. We need a change with the way we do things.”



Travel – $45,358.74

Legal Fees – $124,109.82

Professional Fees – $ 194,740

Total – $364,208.56

Note: $248,000 of the negotiation costs were covered by the feds. Adjusted total: $116,208.56 cost to the Crees.


Travel – $32,703.51 Legal Fees – $104,994.54 Professional Fees – $91,928.45 Total – $229,576.45



Legal Fees – $366,528.83

Professional Fees – $84,930.77

Public & Political Relations – $208,897.98

Cree Referendum – $64,836.95

Others – $2,694.11


Note: Highest paid negotiator of Cree ancestry – $250/hour.


“If the Cree people knew how much money was spent on the negotiations and commissions they’d be surprised.”

“The feds and provincial negotiators have different ways of looking at things. For example, a package deal. You get an envelope of $15 million with $1 million for negotiation costs but if the government gives less than $14 million you as a negotiator may get to keep some or all of the savings.”

“Some of the length of time comes down to a simple formula— different negotiators equals different goals.”

“I think at this time the Crees need an ombudsman to help with establishing guidelines.”

“Conflict-of-interest guidelines are needed to look at things.”

“If you say something against a high budget the guy who wants to keep it will have something to say about it. If that person has a forceful personality he or she can kill the discussion fast or lead into irrelevant issues.”

“I think that a new body should be created and it should be separated from the Band Council chiefs. It would be the one to administer the negotiations. This would cut down on the conflicts.”

“Negotiations have not progressed in some cases to our full satisfaction. In some cases direct negotiations haven’t even get started as far as we can see. Under some of these negotiations even though we sent in projects we haven’t received satisfactory responses.”

“Cap the amount of money available for these negotiations.”

“Some negotiators bring a lot of money into the communities and this should be rewarded but some costs are getting out of hand.”


Grand Council of the Crees – $350/day (pay on travel days is $175/day, i.e. while you’re on the plane)

Band employees – $50/day
The Nation – $35/day