The countdown has started. In eight to ten months, the province of Quebec will be looking at a referendum on separation from Canada. That decision will have far-reaching consequences for Crees and other indigenous peoples whose territories, lands or resources happen to be in the present boundaries of the province of Quebec. Whether the separatist or federalist faction wins, it will still affect all the First Nations (presently of Quebec).
This is a period of time that the political power of the Cree peoples of James Bay is stronger than usual. Whatever proposals Crees receive, they will have to investigate vigilantly. Crees will have to determine what is best fora Cree future, not the future of an independent Quebec or Canada. This is the Cree responsibility not only to future generations, but to the land in Cree care.
The actions taken by Cree political leaders and other Cree citizens will require great carefulness and alertness. The lessons learned in the past concerning the duplicity of both the federal and provincial governments must be foremost in their minds. All the Cree First Nations of James Bay have probably heard of breaches to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. But did you know that the pages detailing breaches to the Agreement, when piled, is actually higher than the Agreement itself? This tells us that we must be ever more careful in future dealings with any non-Cree party.
Make no mistake about it, there will be offers and they will be tempting. As tempting as an ice cream on a hot summer day. But let us not forget that an ice cream melts on a hot summer day. So you must eat it fast and then there isn’t any left. You’re back where you started which is why ice cream stands make such good money in the summer. Then again winter comes along and ice cream sales fall and you remember the hot summer days. How good they were.
Let’s not look back at the hot summer days with longing. This is the Cree future that we are looking at and it’s part of our responsibility. In this we are all equal whether you’re a trapper, labourer, teacher, Elder, youth, whatever—it is all the same because we are all Cree.
The Cree Vision Gathering has provided a unique opportunity for all Crees to participate in that future. The local workshops that will be appearing in Cree communities in the near future are a continuation of that process, that vision. If you do not participate, then you have no right to complain in the future. This is your opportunity as a Cree, so make the most of it. Make it your priority to add to the Cree Vision your ideas, aspirations, goals, objectives and hopes for a better tomorrow. Make it your priority to look at those proposals and tell Cree leaders what you want to see down the road.
Your descendants depend on you and the Cree First Nations (presently of Quebec) depend on you.