After nine years and two consecutive terms as Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees, Ted Moses is turning the page to another chapter in life and his career.
Under what title or working with whom? No one yet knows, but it’s clear that Moses has an enviable CV to show any potential employer – or voter in a future election, for that matter.
Educated at Ryerson and McGill University, Moses went from Band Manager in Eastmain at a young age to Chief. He then played a key role in the 1973 legal proceedings concerning hydro development in James Bay, which eventually led to the decision of Justice Malouf in favour of the James Bay Crees.
He subsequently was the Chief Cree Negotiator of the JBNQA in 1974 and 1975. He also took part in the negotiations leading to the 1984 Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, Canada’s first local self-government legislation. He was the first Director-General of the Cree School Board.
Moses was also highly regarded on the international stage. He helped win consultative status for the Grand Council from the United Nations in 1987. In 1989, he was elected as the Rapporteur of the United Nations meeting on the Effects of Racism and Racial Discrimination on the Social and Economic Relations between Indigenous Peoples and States.
“I saw him as a true leader,” said Grand Council Executive Director Bill Namagoose. “Fearless, with a strong belief in his abilities, he knew who he was, what he wanted, where he was and what he was doing there.”
Namagoose said he learned a lot from Moses over the past six years. “I was always confident that the Cree Nation was in good hands,” he said. “I never got any sense that the Crees were heading in the wrong direction. He’s accomplished a lot in the last six years; it takes some leaders 30, 40 years to accomplish what he has with Quebec.”
But Namagoose says the former Grand Chief’s many critics didn’t appreciate what was at stake in the negotiations over the Paix des Braves, which lead to the hydro development of the Rupert and Eastmain Rivers, as well as a $70 million a year in payments for a half century.
“Sometimes we’re victims of our own success,” Namagoose explained. “We’ve empowered the Cree Nation to a point where they feel they have a right to save yes or no to certain advances by governments. That’s a very good sense of empowerment.”
Namagoose credits Moses in the way he’s dealt with Quebec and Ottawa. “With the Paix des Braves he removed some obstacles. He dealt with the extinguishment policy of Canada. Not only has he dealt with it in the international community, but he also managed to deal with it in a practical way in Quebec, whereby the Crees will now enjoy a share of their natural resources within their traditional territory.”
As for Grand Council negotiator Abel Bosum, Ted Moses is no less than “one of the great Cree leaders of our time.”
Bosum said Moses’ approach is that of a diplomat. “He had a different style than previous leaders who were all good, too, like Billy [Diamond] and Matthew [Coon Come],” said Bosum. “There were times when we were at war with Quebec and Canada and we needed real strong fighters. With Ted, I think his experience as an ambassador working at an international level, he developed a different style.
“With Ted, he didn’t only see the governments as institutions,” Bosum continued. “He found a way to make connections with people like [former Quebec Premier] Bernard Landry and through that create the dialogue and the relationship that helped establish a table and a process where the two nations could sit down and hammer out what their interests were.”
With his many years of familiarity and knowledge in the Cree political world, others wonder whether Moses might be ready to go national. Many people (on the Moses campaign website, at least) are now calling for Moses to run for National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
In a interview before the election, Moses was not worried where he would end up if he lost. “With my experience, I’m not too worried if I don’t win,” he said. “I can go back to my trapline, or I could find another job with other organizations because of my experience in negotiations.”
Moses was contacted by phone for this article but chose not to comment.