The comments in this file are organized according to themes, and are based on interviews with Eastmain and Wemindji hunters and trappers done by Colin Scott and Kreg Ettenger, transcribed August 1994, and held in the archives of the Grand Council of the Crees, 81 Metcalfe St. Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 6K7. The subject of these interviews was the impact of the James Bay hydro project works on the Eastmain-Wemindji area. Respondents are identified only by number. These are from Vol 2, Part A, pps 289--339. Edited slightly for publication on this Web site.
Impact of workers and their camps
Disturbance to forest and wildlife
Loss of property (theft, vandalism, etc)
Health and Safety Concerns
Impacts of transmission lines on wildlife
Highways and access roads
Sports hunting & fishing
Traffic and other disturbance to wildlife
Impacts on lakes, streams, and fishing
Impacts on hunting resources
Note: individual species are named in black type to aid archival search.
The dotted line indicates a new speaker.
Since the road came through to build the hydroelectric project people see that there are negative impacts. The workers they just went all over the place and knocked down trees and didn't really care whether it was a good thing for the Cree. There were a lot of forest fires that started from the work they did slashing for the road and the power line and they burnt down a lot of traplines. This really affected the trapping and really showed a decrease on the trappers' catch. It also made it easier for the trappers to go up to their traplines, it was not like it was before when they had a hard time. It made it easier for them to go up and come down, they could go back and forth now.
A lot of these trees are destroyed because of the blasting that took place to make the road and the dams. The clearing where the road is built on, these trees were cut down, hills were dynamited, and rivers flooded or dried up. All the destruction is devastating to see. Even when they try to fix up the lands, it can never be exactly the way it was before it was destroyed. Even with the replanting of the trees and bushes. The animals who used to feed off these lands, what they were used to is not there any more, they can't find it at all because it has been destroyed. When sand is being transported, a lot of it spills and this destroys the animals' food, such as plants, bushes, berries and insects. The reason why this happens is because of the roads Hydro is building, leading to and from the dams and where the power lines run. Even if it's just used as a temporary road to get sand, rocks and hills dynamited, if the animals are near the blasting, the noise from the dynamite is very loud compared to a gunshot. If a person is far from the site he still can feel the blast. Imagine how startled these "awaashiisich" are and how frightened they must be hearing the noise. The shaking of the ground probably confuses this awaashiisich and they don't know where to run and hide. Some animals must be very scared when they hear the blasting, especially if they are close to the blasting area. They must be very scared and then they run and hide as far away as they can. That's the reason why animals are very scarce around the hydro power lines.
All the activities taking place with all the noise constantly affects the animals, not only the animals, also people.There is too much noise, there's too much activity of construction workers. And...there's a Hydro camp on the Matagami LG-2 highway referred to as Kilometre 381. The camp's sewage, their raw waste empties into one of the natural creeks that runs on my trapline. Anything downstream from that creek is useless for me.
My trapline is one that's really heavily hit with all the construction sites. There's roads in there, there's transmission lines and there's also that Kilometre 381 construction camp. They have a heliport there and all the people doing certain environment studies work out of there; there's a huge fuel and gas reservoir there. Two or three years ago they had a spill, and I noticed signs of either fuel or gas in the water next to the river beside the camp.I sort of feel I've been disrespected by the people who work at Hydro-Quebec. The very first year when Hydro-Quebec started construction, I lost my traps, I had 38 traps, brand-new traps, new from the year before.... The construction guys dug a hole in clay. They threw my traps, all my hunting gear, in the hole. They buried it. So from there on, I've always felt disrespected.People don't necessarily bring back and forth their traps and other things to the village every year, I had my traps in a cache, built on trees, away from the animals. When I got there, there was a small camp, I'd never heard of or seen that camp before. Because of that camp being there, I could not camp on my original site. I went across the river and made my camp on the other side.... But before I went over, I saw that somebody had cut with a chainsaw the four legs, the four trees, and taken the cache and dumped it in the garbage, behind the camp.... Later in the evening the guys came over and said, "Well, the boss is now here." So I went over and said, "It's bad enough that you're already established here, but to make things even worse, where are my things?" And the guy that was supposed to be in charge of the camp said, "I don't know. Before I got here somebody, some animal or somebody had damaged your belongings." It's impossible, no animal's got a chainsaw, and it was a chainsaw that cut the four legs. The worst thing about it is, you already feel bad about it losing your stuff, and the guy doesn't even want to tell you what happened. And he's right there, this was the guy that was calling the shots.
During the construction of the transmission lines, some working personnel set up camps. I asked them if I could have a camp, one of the buildings, nobody ever got back to me, nobody even said a yes or a no, they never responded to me.... They had a campsite there and some of the trailers or accommodations would have interested me very much. I didn't necessarily ask for the best one they had, I said something that's got a roof, something that could accommodate a small family like mine, but to no response. When they moved away, when they cleared the construction site everything was taken.One of the things that I did during the construction, is I went on site, I visited the site of the construction of these transmission lines in midsummer, just so that I could see what some of the workers were doing. And right away I noticed them fishing, a lot of fishing, and one of the things I asked the superiors of the workers is to try and limit themselves, but to no effect or no avail, it was like talking to the wall, they just continued fishing. And I mean real fishing, fishing every evening or every spare moment, every spare time.
Some people within my trapline were exposed by Hydro to alcohol, as a result of making it available at the camps, like the EOL camp. They had sort of a corner store where you (could) get it, they also had a nightclub from 7:00 to 11:00 each and every night. Some of the young trappers, in my mind, were first exposed to alcohol in that construction period.
I have seen the future EM-1 site, Harry invited me over to that area a couple of winters ago. I was surprised at the low population of beaver, maybe because there's a lot of surveying that's done there at the present time, and at the time we were there. There seemed to be a lot of helicopter activity, ground crews. There seem to be a lot of studies going on, be it with trees, or with fish, or the velocity of water, but there seemed to be quite a presence in there. I consider myself one of the better fishermen of the community. But over there I had difficulty finding the spots. I was new to the area, but then again H. was supposed to tell me, and when he told me this is where to fish and there's no fish there, there's no explanation to that, I don't know how to explain that.
When I got invited by Harry to his trapline, we concentrated on the area that's going to be the future EM-1 (reservoir site). I noticed there that his population of beaver was lower than before construction of this La Grande project. I think it's basically the same in my view with all the traplines that are within a certain distance around the construction area, that the population of beaver has gone very low compared to the beaver population of the traplines on the coast. Before they used to be more balanced, almost the same, there were even years when we had a better population than the traplines on the coast. But that's not the case today. I have an inland trapline, I have to borrow some beavers from the coastal traplines.
The last few years we were out there on Jack River, we noticed upriver there were some white men coming down, and we heard also that they were doing the same thing to all the rivers here. That was about twenty years ago, and we noticed that the quality of the fish was going down very rapidly, and we thought maybe these guys had something to do with it, like they were maybe putting something in the water, and we heard after that they were everywhere. The fish weren't as good as before, because I think these guys were tampering with the water and the fish. Everybody noticed that something was happening with the rivers, ever since we found out these guys were out there, in all the rivers along the bay.There were some white people here about twenty years ago, right here on the reserve, in the community, about the time that we noticed some people at the Jack River, and all up along the rivers. We noticed that everything in the water wasn't as good as before, because there was some gas on top of the water when the ice broke, the ice wasn't as good as before.
Q: Do you have any idea where that was spilling from?
A: We think that maybe it was coming from when they were fueling the planes. They used a lot of planes and helicopters at that time, going everywhere with the planes, upriver and downriver, everywhere, and they spilled a lot of gas on the rivers.
A: There's a road that goes along the last transmission line just before J.S.'s territory. Just before that is where I stayed maybe two years ago. I was hoping to get beaver there but there was hardly any. I don't know what affected that, maybe the road or the power line. There are shacks along the road also.
Q: You mean hydro shacks?
A: Yes, the ones who have done the clearing must have killed the beaver. I thought it was only a marker at first, they just cut a small line. Then I saw that they slashed the area for the transmission line. Those that cut the slash line must have killed the beaver, not those that slashed the transmission line area.
Q: Have they finished the area yet?
A: Yes, those shacks are gone too.
I lost quite a bit of equipment when the roads came in --- the access road came in, the first winter road, borrow pit roads, things like that. I lost quite a bit of equipment that was made by me, like snowshoes.
I had heard from other trappers that the construction workers vandalized or even stole some personal belongings of trappers who were in the inland traplines, so when I heard that I always made efforts to take everything out. But then again, the more you bring out. the costlier it gets for transportation costs.
Hydro people played dirty while they were working on the dams located on our trapline. They violated our camps, stole our brand-new snowshoes and threw our traps into a lake, including the bear trap. We only found the traps when the water level went down. And I do think that their actions were uncalled for. This kind of behaviour is discriminative and hypocritical and violating private property.
People who worked on the project during the construction period even told me, you cannot use the Eastmain river during the construction period. You totally should stop using it, because we're fooling around with dynamite, we're doing all kinds of work, and if we don't know where you are, something could happen. Not only during the construction period, even before that when they were doing the water studies, they asked me to tell everybody else they shouldn't be on this river. Those were the workers who were saying that.
I was there when they started making the -- well, first of all it was a winter road, the Matagami-LG-2 highway was a winter road -- when they started bringing, moving the equipment. It was only about three or four miles from my camp, and I went to see it a few times. Some of the workers didn't seem too agreeable to the presence of the trappers fooling around in the construction area. The following year I moved my camp so that I'd be out of the way of the construction area.
A: Yes, one time since the road was there I lost all the traps that were inside my cabin. Somebody had taken them. That's one of the things you got to really hide in there; your traps.
What I've lost in there, I cannot say it's all non-Natives, I think it's some of the Crees.There's a lot of Crees from the south, like Mistissini, Nemaska along those areas that use that road and that's why I can't completely blame the non-Natives for my equipment. I don't think it's only them, because I think it's some Crees from Chisasibi as well. It's what I was told from Chisasibi. Some of the people are not all that honest.The reason why I mention Chisasibi, and I don't care if they hear this interview, it's twice now, I heard of my fellow trapper in Wemindji recognizing his equipment that Chisasibi Crees are using. That the reason why I said that.Concerning this Great Whale Project, I'm trying to warn these people that it's not only the water that going to have a effect on their traplines. As soon as they get a road in there they're going to feel the same pressure, people stealing their equipment.
When we stayed in the bush for the whole year we used to keep the things that we needed for next year, even those camping and winter clothes, what we needed in winter time, even snowshoes. We used to keep them at the camp where we used to be, we left them up there. And nobody ever touched anything, they were safe there.... Now everything has changed. We can't ever keep our stuff in the bush since we had the highway to Chisasibi.
Q: What happens to it?
A: They take the things we need, you can never leave the snowshoes, even what is important to us, can't leave it at the camp. We have to bring it all down, because we don't want anybody to take it away from us, what we need for next year. We have to bring everything down since we have the highway from Matagami to Chisasibi. Some of them said it was white people and some said it was people from other (Cree) communities. We don't know which it is, we're not there, we can't tell who the person is.
Q: Does the road have any effect on the relationship between the different communities, between Eastmain and Chisasibi or other Cree communities, because of things like that?
A: Yes. I know there is more change, because it seems the people from the other communities seem to be jealous of what we had, what they saw at our camp. Just had to take it away from us. Even the generator and snowshoes and everything that's in the camp.
Q: Do you think it's the younger people who don't understand that?
A: Yeah. But the last year, I heard that there was a person in Matagami that sold some things secondhand, even the Indian people. And some of the people know that's their own stuff that came from that guy, and it's a white guy.
Q: It was a whiteman who was trying to sell these people back their own things?
A: Yeah, what they stole from the camps. Even chain saws, mostly the chain saws are lost. Maybe he cleaned everything, so it seems they're brand new but it shows it's secondhand when you open it.
Q: Do you think that the relationship between Cree people and white people has changed over the past twenty years or so in this area?
A: Yeah, it's much changed. Even the people from the other communities, I heard some of the people are like that too, stealing something from the other camps, break the doors or doorknobs, even if it's locked they break the windows and go inside and take everything that they want. Yeah, there's a lot of changes. Because I meet a lot of white people since I was in the bush, it seems they always want to have what they saw from the people. And they always want to find out what kind of thing you use for this and that, maybe that's why they want to find out. Sometimes I can never give them the right answer because I am afraid they might do something worse.
I've also experienced people stealing off my traps. That's why I went and pointed out about my moccasins, because I know when I see another Indian's tracks, another Native, he's going to wear moccasins, and the guys who stole my two martens, they were wearing ordinary boots.
Q: Do you have any trouble with sport hunters or trespassers bothering your equipment?
A: Well they stole our 4 wheeler, it was seen on the back of a transport truck at KM 381.They found it down south. Police found it. We cannot get it back because my husband is supposed to go and identify it but he has got nothing to use (no vehicle, no plane fare) to go over there.
Q: Was it non-Native people who stole it?
A: No they weren't Native, it was seen on the back of a trailer, probably on a transport
Q: Who saw it?
A: Those people who live along the highway, Eastmain people.
Q: Was it parked close to the road?
A: It was off to the side of the road, it had a flat tire. That was the reason they left it there.
Q: What have you noticed about the effects of the transmission lines on the life around them?
A: I have never found beaver around the lines.
Q: Can you estimate how far from the transmission lines you had to go to find beaver?
A: Maybe five miles.
Q: Do you think beaver are afraid of the lines?
A: I don't know, the lines weren't up yet, only the clearing was done. I haven't seen the area since the lines went up.
Q: Were the guys who did the clearing Cree or non-Cree?
A: I don't know the ones who did the marking, but I only saw white guys do the slashing. They didn't speak any English and they had huge trucks with them.
A fish dies easily from the effects of the hydro lines. When it rains, the rain stays on the power lines and drips into the rivers or lakes. Also in the winter when snow falls on these power lines you can hear them sizzle just like someone frying something in grease. The electricity causes this and it falls into the snow on the ground and pollutes it. It seeps into the ground or earth. In the summer when it really pours, the hydro lines make noises just like a plane flying around. And in winter when a heavy snowfall occurs the noises come from the strong currents of the power lines. If one looked for pollution they would find it right away where the power lines run during these rainstorms and snowstorms. If he put something under the lines, maybe an instrument of some sort, he'd find out soon enough. It would not take long. If someone could do an honest survey and not lie about the results, they could clearly and honestly tell what happens and how strong is this pollution. The noises that these power lines make during rainy or snowy days, can't be heard when it's a nice day. Someone walking by these lines wouldn't hear a thing on a calm day. But on stormy days somebody couldn't stand the noises from these power lines, especially women. The women could talk about this and express their feelings about the noise pollution. Anywhere these power lines run, the noise is there, too. Even if you can't see them from where you are, on stormy days or in bad weather you still can hear the sizzling sounds from the power lines. These could affect the animals, all the different kinds of animals but the caribou don't go under these power lines or stay very near them. The caribou will walk around nearby but they won't stay right close to the lines. They know, I guess, that whatever is there is contaminated. It's as if they know that they could be poisoned if they ate under or beside the hydro lines. It is a known fact that the animals are frightened by these power lines, especially on stormy days. They leave the area, even though they like the cleared area, where the power lines run, they won't stay there because they can hear the loud noises from the power lines. It is also known that there aren't any of the small animals there. You can't find or see their tracks in the snow in the winter. I have looked for their tracks. Also the ptarmigan is like that. The noises scare them away, and the rabbits. We all know how scared rabbits can be. The rabbits stay as far away from the power lines and the road as they possibly can. The rabbits sure suffer too because of the dams. It really affects the rabbits since they can't go near the cleared area where the rabbit likes to go to eat and look for food. I'm not saying that all the rabbits are scarce. I'm pointing out strongly, how much it frightens the rabbits.
The high voltage transmission lines run through my trapline, and I can honestly say I can hear the transmission lines about thirty miles away. I could never live close to the transmission lines, I could never set a camp close to them.... They make a noise, almost like a motoring noise.... And the sound seems to be worse when the weather is at its poorest, when the visibility is at its poorest or when you have high winds. One year we were within ten miles from the transmission lines, it even affected our sleeping. The following year we were about thirty miles and we could still hear it, we could still hear the sound of the transmission line. This is the main transmission line, this is the high voltage transmission line, I think there's two set of transmission lines or even three.
When we first got to our campsite, when we first set up camp, it was a very nice clear day, and we didn't hearing anything. It's always been like that, you don't hear anything when it's calm and clear. Then in the days to follow, this is the fall, we had some precipitation, like snow and some wind, when we first heard it. It sounds like an outboard motor, the same sound, we even looked up the river to see if there was anybody boating, like it's so confusing, it's so close to the sounds of an outboard motor.... Traplines are meant to be quiet, there's peace on the trapline, there's silence, it's very quiet, and all of a sudden you hear this monstrous outboard motor.Just to elaborate on that, I felt like the loudest was when they were wet or when there was precipitation or when there was a low overcast. The loudest was in November, and as the cold weather started to hit in December they sort of quiet off, in December as we started having clear and cold weather.
There's a whistling sound that comes with the transmission lines.... It really gets loud when it's damp, when the clouds are low and it's damp, and if there's a high wind. It's a real strong whistling sound.... When they're at their loudest I can safely say I can hear them five miles away. One time I was riding my skidoo, I was on a skidoo about five miles away. With the machine on I could still hear them, I could still hear the whistling of those transmission lines.
Q: How far can you hear the transmission lines? When you're not right next to them, how far away can you hear them and in what kind of weather conditions are they loudest'?
A: When I am six miles off I can still hear them when it's windy and in the rain. But when it's a calm day and the noise level is down, I don't hear it as much. But especially when it's windy, I will hear it more. I've been as close as four miles to it and it's not the same thing. When it's windy, snowy or generally bad weather, I can hear the power line, not the just the wind whistling through them. On a calm day the noise level would go down to almost nothing.
Q: About how far away can you hear those lines when the weather is poor?
A: Well, my best guess would be roughly up to fifteen or maybe twenty miles from where I am. Because we're on the side of the hill I can see them at a distance. So that's why I figure it's roughly twenty miles.
Q: Where is the transmission line on your trapline?
A: It's not very far from my trapline, not far from my camp.
Q: Can you hear them, at all? Do they make a noise?
A: I can hear, it has a lot of effect on my trapper's radio, especially when it's bad weather. I don't know if it's got to do with the bad weather, as well as with the transmission lines.
Q: When is it worse? In which kind of weather is it worse?
A: When it's snowfall and rain. We can't hear anything on the radio. They said that they were supposed to put some kind of filter on the radio set to reduce the noise on the radio there.
Q: Can you hear the transmission lines themselves, with the naked ear?
A: I refer to it as an airplane, you know like an Otter or a Beaver that you hear, from a distance, like just before it gets close, it has that sound.
Q: Are there any dams or power lines near your camp?
A: No, the power lines and dams are not too close, they are quite a way from the camp.
Q: What about the CB radio, is there any interference, can the people hear each other still?
A: Yes, sometimes there is interference. Sometimes when we hear other people, they don't hear us and vice-versa.
Q: There is also the question of the interference of the transmission lines. What are the main concerns that you have?
A: When we were at another camp which is close to the transmission lines sometimes the reception was not very good. On windy days when we tried to call into Wemindji, they could not hear us so I suspect that it was the power lines.
The other thing I've found is with my neighbor here, he's near a transmission line. When I talk to them on the radio, the transmission line is affecting the radio transmission, and now since they're going to put another transmission corridor along where I live, I'm afraid the same thing is going to happen to me.
Q: Could that be a dangerous situation, if your radio contact is interfered with?
A: I'm afraid that if something does happen and I can't get through or there is bad reception then I won't be able to contact anybody. The transmission line that goes by here, I can still hear it, from where I am. Especially in bad weather or when it's windy, when that happens it's worse for these people here. Especially on their radio, I can hardly hear them, almost no reception.
Q: Another question I'll ask you. How many transmission line corridors cross your trapline?
A: Three places, the first transmission lines go across Yasinski Lake. Then there are those which go across the road that leads to the east and more recently some more went across the road which crosses the lake to the eastern, those were the last to go across.
Q: What has been the effect of these transmission lines?
A: They're not good for me, I have trouble transmitting with the others. When one stands at the lines, one can hear a loud noise during rain and snow. When I come to my cabin, my radio makes the same static noise as those of the transmission lines. This winter I stayed with J., I told him, stop at the transmission lines, I guess he did that, he enters and goes to the radio and listens, he says it's the same noise as the transmission lines. People have trouble with our radio transmission, we hear them all right, but they don't hear us. It's due to the transmission lines. I don't know how many lines there are in those three transmission corridors, maybe about forty lines.
A: I'm sure there's a lot more things that are affected by those power lines because a lot of the land is destroyed along the lines. And on my trapline there's four lines there, and it also affects the frequency transmission of bush radio. When we're talking on the bush radio, the currents going up into the lines affect the transmission of the radios.
Q: Does that make it more difficult to use the radio?
A: Yes, we find it difficult to use the radios because of the transmission lines.
Q: Are there times when you can't use the radio at all because of the lines?
A: Yes, sometimes it's very difficult to use the radio and we cannot understand what the other person is saying at times.
Q: Is there a certain type of weather or anything that you find those problems are worse?
A: When the weather is very bad, that's when we have a problem, usually in rain and snowing weather.
Q: How far away would you say that you can hear those lines when they're at their loudest?
A: You can hear them from far, I can hear it when I'm about ten miles away. And there's one transmission line that is about five miles away from me and they're really wide; they are the first transmission lines they put in that area.
Q: You say the transmission lines were in your way; how do they interfere with your activities?
A: You cannot hear other camps because of the frequency, and on bad days they are so loud they make a whistling sound. When you hear someone very clear on the bush radio, he cannot hear you because of the interference of those lines. They are very loud when it is a bad day. You can see the transmission lines from our camp. It is worse at J.'s camp than it is at ours.
Q: How far are the lines from your camp?
A: You saw them, when you checked the net (researcher had visited interviewee's camp the previous winter). They're about three or four kilometres, maybe two miles.
Q: Can you hear them clearly from that distance?
A: When we lived closer they were very loud, now we can hear them but not as loud as we did when we camped closer to them.
Right beside my camp are the transmission lines. When they started putting up the transmission lines a number of years ago, they cut a corridor, and in the corridor they cut everything, right to the ground. They cut all the huge trees, all the willows. But in the past few years new brush was coming out, was growing right on the corridors, right underneath the transmission lines. So that was very good habitat for ptarmigan, that was also good for rabbit. And just this past year again, I guess Hydro-Quebec decided to do another clean-up, so they cut all the new stuff again. Now it's just like day one when there was nothing there, they cut all the new bush and they burned all the new bush.When I say the transmission line's on my trapline, it's not just the one set of transmission lines, it's two sets of transmission lines. And when I said there was new habitat, there was new vegetation or new bush that was growing there, not only was it good for rabbits and ptarmigans, it was also good for moose, the moose were starting to come. Moose tends to feed on new brush, so that was one of my theories as to why I had an increased population of moose on my area.It's almost similar to a forest fire. When you have a forest fire you have new brush growing after so many years, the area that had the forest fire tends to recover, that's exactly what happened. That's one good thing about the transmission lines, underneath the transmission lines there was new brush. And with that in mind, I was very hopeful for this coming year or within the next couple of years that I was going to have a good population of rabbits and ptarmigan, even a better population of rabbits and ptarmigan, because even with the cycle being so low it was still a good area for those two species. And if the cycle was at its peak then of course there would be an increase in rabbits and ptarmigan.
I've come across a few areas where I've had moose living right under the transmission line. Because there's now new vegetation there, there's new growth, like when they made the transmission lines they cut the vegetation right down to the ground. Now you got new willows and new growth so therefore there's moose living right under the transmission line.
...wherever there was a fire everything is growing back normally and where the transmission lines are, strawberries are growing very well. It's not the same elsewhere.
Q: Where did you see this?
A: Where we stayed last fall east of the transmission lines.
Q: Did you check around the clear cutting area to see if the plants are growing back? Are the lines in use?
A: Yes, they are in use.
Q: Did you notice that right away?
A: Yes, and away from the lines the berries don't seem to grow like the ones near the lines.
Q: What do you think causes this?
A: Maybe it comes from the lines. Moose hang around there.
Q: Do you know of any beaver in that area?
A: No, not close to the transmission lines.
Q: Is it suitable for the beaver to stay near the lines?A: There was beaver there, in the general vicinity of the lines.
A: Trees grow along the transmission line, especially the willows.
Q: Do they keep the vegetation short; do they come around and cut down the bush?
A: Yes, right now they're cutting there, in that area. They do that maybe every two years, I think they did it last summer.
Q: How does that affect the animals in that area?
A: There're not very many animals where the clear cutting is. They are mostly in the long trees, and the caribou, they don't hang around there where the transmission line is, they're mostly in the thick bushes.
...They keep clearing the area (in the transmission corridor) so it is hard for the plant-life under the lines to grow to its full potential.
On the transmission line especially, the vegetation on the berries that grow right underneath where the lines are, grows very well. But we don't know why, maybe it has to do with the electricity, the magnetics, with the transmission line, there was no study to analyze the vegetation on the transmission lines. And the wildlife take a lot of the twigs and all, the moose feed on the twigs and the ptarmigan feeds on that too. Even with the pine trees, the spruce grouse depend on those things and the bear feeds on the berries and the moose feeds on the grass. We don't know what's happening with that, maybe it gets into the food chain. The hunters rely on these, that's why they go inland to eat, to have something better, fresh, to sustain life while they're on the trapline and we don't know what's in it [referring to possible contaminants in bush food].
The other thing that I have been informed about, is that we're not allowed to eat the berries that grow along the transmission lines.
Q: Not allowed to eat them?
A: We were told, because of the effect of radiation or I don't know what.
Q: Who told you this?
A: We were told by the people that were working along the transmission lines, I guess it would be a contractor who was doing the lines.
Q: And would that normally be a good place for berries because it's been cut over?
A: Yes, the berries really grow right along (the slashed corridor for) the transmission lines, I used to eat them, before they told me not to. What I found was that the berries really grow in size.Q: Really?A: Yes, compared to different areas. They are...
A: Yes, an unnatural size, they are big, big.
Q: Has anyone warned you not to eat the berries along the transmission corridor or not to eat animals that you find there?
A: I have been warned by the local trappers' committee not to eat what I find along the transmission corridor; berries or plants or things that I find, not to eat them or not to hunt or trap animals along that corridor. I heard this from the trapper's committee here; nobody from hydro or anywhere else told me anything like that. The only information that I got came from the local trappers and I assume they got it from somewhere else.
Q: Where would that somewhere else be?
A: The CTA (Cree Trappers' Association) has a head office in Val d'Or; it's probably from down there...
Q: Have you noticed anything about the plants that grow in the area, near transmission lines; do the berries or anything else look different?
A: The only thing I've noticed is that the berries seem dried up, they're not full-grown round.
Q: Does it make you feel any different when you're near the power lines? Do you feel anything?
A: Well, when I go along the corridor I don't really feel any different, but last fall, around that area we were told by the local committee that if we are driving along the transmission line in a vehicle not to stop directly under the wires. We were told a story of some people from Chisasibi who had done that; they had stopped directly under the power line and their vehicle somehow became electrified because of the power lines. When they tried to leave, when they touched the vehicle, they could feel the electricity running down through it or something. They couldn't get out of the vehicle, because they had no way of opening the doors until some people came along from Hydro-Quebec; then somebody wearing padded gloves was able to open their doors for them so they could get out.
Along the transmission corridor I've found the berries and bushes are simply growing more there. It doesn't seem to have an effect on them. But we were told not to hunt or trap along the area where the transmission line is. I've heard through other people that whatever I get from there won't be really good for me. So I pretty well leave the area alone. I don't get anything from there.
Q: Have you heard anything about the possible health effects of these high voltage power lines?
A: Nobody has ever told me if there's side effects or if there's any health hazards, so I don't know.
Q: Have you heard anything about whether it's safe to eat foods or animals that you collect or kill near the transmission lines?
A: I've never heard any stories or any advice telling me that I cannot eat anything that I harvest in or around the corridors of the transmission lines.In the corridors of the transmission line there's new brush which is a very good source of food for the moose. I myself haven't killed one inside the corridor and I don't know what I would do if I did kill one, because I'm a little hesitant, I'm a little concerned, because I don't have the proper information in regards to what effects the transmission lines might have on the surrounding area, or even on the animals within the corridors of the transmission line.
A: Another issue I could talk about is the transmission lines that are across my territories.
Q: What would you say are the main effects of the transmission lines?
A: I wanted to talk about the possible radiation that could come out of the transmission lines. There's good vegetation in the area of the transmission lines. I'm worried about what's going into the vegetation in the area of the transmission lines, but we are always told that there's nothing affected in that area. And we were told that some people were picking berries in that area, and when they ate the berries they experienced symptoms, a kind of headache. And there was another case were an old man was close to the area of the transmission lines and somehow got sick and they thought that it was due to the radiation from the transmission lines. And still they, Hydro says there's no radiation in the transmission lines. Hydro still maintains their position. One of the things I'm worried about when Phase II is finished, I'd imagine there's going to be more transmission lines crossing our territories, thereby increasing the possible radiation from the transmission lines. It's highly unlikely that they're going to put up the transmission lines to go around (instead of crossing through) our territory. And most likely they'll own the transmission lines that go through our territory. It's going to be more impacts from the transmission lines.
Q: Have you noticed that the transmission lines or the corridors that were cut, have affected the behaviour of the animals in any way?
A: I really don't know anything about it. It's possible that the animals that eat vegetation from there can get sickness from there. And I'm worried that humans who eat the animals that were eating from there, could catch some kind of a disease from there. The transmission lines don't seem to bother the animals that are eating vegetation in that area. But I am still worried about the possibility that the vegetation could be contaminated and be transferred to the humans.
Q: In the contamination, is this just the radiation from the wires you were thinking of or is there other forms of contamination directly involved?
A: There are those vehicles that go through the transmission lines and there's possible contamination due to the spillage of certain liquids like gas and oil. And there's hydrogen gas going up and it's possible that acid rain could result from there. I can't really be conclusive about what I'm saying, I'm just saying that it's possible that these things can happen. Fumes going up in the air and falling down again, on the ground. Also from the mercury in the water, in the mist going down again as acid rain. It's possible that those things can happen. We can't really be sure about those matters and there's probably somebody doing a study on them. But we won't know, Maybe we won't know until we actually get sick from it.
Q: Do you think there's any health risks associated with the power lines?
A: There are probably health risks especially with the vegetation under the power lines. If a person consumes enough vegetation especially berries that grow directly under the power lines they will probably be affected in some way in the future if not right away.
Q: Can you see any changes to the berries themselves that might be due to the radiation?
A: I have heard from other people that pick berries that there are more and bigger berries.
Q: In the area that is clear-cut or right under the power lines?
A: Right on the cleared space under the power lines.
You probably saw the transmission lines that glow in the dark. Many of these lines cross lakes and rivers. During the winter the water forms icicles on the lines which contributes to the pollution problem when it melts during the spring. The whiteman is afraid to make drinking water out of snow.
A: What I notice off the (transmission) corridor is that the vegetation doesn't look the same as the vegetation in the corridor. I don't know why that is, they appear to grow very well. The way they appear...they go dormant (dry up) earlier than those outside the corridor, but when an animal feeds on it, it's probably contaminated. Also the berries, they appear irregular, same thing probably happens when an animal feeds on them. Though I see a lot of berries, I never eat them. I don't know if you feel any differently after having eaten them.
Q: Do the berries look particularly good, in the corridor?
A: Yes, close to the corridor, they seem to grow well except that they dry up earlier than those outside the corridor. We think, animals are affected when they feed on these, that's how we see it.
We had a summer like we have now with no rain, in 1989. It is good for forest fires, we had a lot of them. My father-in-law's camp is in km. 184, and he said that when they went to pick blueberries, the blueberries were very small, almost dry and they didn't grow very well. But in the corridor there were big blue berries, and he was very surprised because he said that the sun is more intense on this cleared area, but that doesn't seem to be the case. They went to the shade where they figured they would be well grown but they were all small. I asked if it could be the energy field in this area, where the sun wouldn't penetrate as much.
I know one specific spot on my father's trapline, the transmission line was put over a spot where a lot of moose used to yard, where they go in January or February. Because of that, there's hardly any more moose there anymore. That used to be the prime area for his people, the people that hunted with him. They never went there until the time was right, like when there was a storm, they would go there because they had to wait for the south wind to blow or you have to wait for a blizzard and then you go there. Then you get what you want, what you need, like one moose or two moose. And that would be enough and the rest would be left unharmed, untouched and they would stay there because they were not disturbed. That was customary, to preserve that you know, and the loss of that is a direct impact from the hydroelectric project.
Q: I wondered as you were talking earlier if you could provide more detail about the ways in which transmission lines have a negative impact on moose.
A: For the moose, when you have a transmission line on a potential area, you disturb the wildlife. There's constantly the linemen, the people that look after it, the choppers and all that, that look after that transmission line. When they fly over, they're following the transmission line, they disturb the wildlife and once you disturb the wildlife they're going to leave the area where they used to be. The trapper relies on the moose, they know where they are, but once they take off when you disturb them, they don't go back, and when they do that it really has a impact on the trapper and also on the wildlife. We don't know what the transmission line itself does to the wildlife. There was never a study done on that.
The other thing that I've noticed about the transmission line is there seems to be a very low population of beaver within the corridors or within the area of the transmission lines, never mind a very low population for moose.
Q: So do you feel that it's the noise of the transmission line that has the effect on the animals, it scares them away or something?
A: Of course I blame it on the transmission lines, otherwise I would have never mentioned it, I would have never brought it up.... I totally blame the low population of beaver and moose on that.
Q: How has that affected your use of your trapline, how have you adjusted to that?
A: One of the things is I have located my area, my camp, I don't set camp within a certain mile radius. And I also know in the last couple years there is a new set of transmission lines that are on the west of those, so I have two sets of transmission lines, one from the sub-station and one from the main source at LG-2. This last set, the ones that were put in recently, are only about a kilometre from my camp, even though I had moved my camp away from the main ones.
Q: Are you expecting to see any impacts from them?
A: I sort of expect the same thing from the other transmission lines, in my mind maybe they'll decrease the population of animals within the corridor, or maybe even a little farther than outside of the corridor.
The transmission line runs through my trapline, it goes south from there, it continues. In the previous years, in the corridor or the alignment of the transmission line I have creeks, I have small lakes, I have streams where there used to be a beaver population. One thing I have noticed, beavers will never live under the transmission lines. There's none. Whether it's a nice little pond, a lake, or the corner of a lake, or a nice stream, there's never any beaver living under the transmission lines. But there are old abandoned lodges in those areas, and I know there was beaver activity there before.
Q: Do you have any idea why that is?
A: There's a whistling sound that comes with the transmission lines, I blame that for not having any beaver population within the corridor of the transmission line. It really gets loud when it's damp, when the clouds are low and it's damp, and if there's a high wind. It's a real strong whistling sound. And one of the other things I want to point out, too, is the line rests on big hydro poles. And those hydro poles are protected with some kind of an oil, and sometimes it cannot be helped by construction, the leg of the transmission line would be right next to a stream and that stream would empty into a lake. And I sort of feel that some of the oil has seeped down, it seeps down as the pole stands upright, it goes into the ground, probably goes into the stream and goes down the stream into the lake. And as a Native hunter, as a Native tallyman, as a Cree hunter, I was raised and I was taught not even to dip a pot that was burned on an open flame into a lake or a stream. That's how cautious or how careful we are when it comes to beaver management or preserving beaver populations.Of course in my opinion I would say that the beaver is more sensitive to the noise then the big game, especially the moose. The moose lives right underneath or within the corridors of the transmission line and the beaver cannot even live in the creeks or the streams or the little lakes that are within the corridor of the transmission line. And I know for sure too, the beaver is more sensitive to noise, any noise, even human noise. Like if you were walking on the shore of a creek or of a lake and there was a beaver in the midst of the water, swimming around, once he started to hear the vibration or hear your footsteps he would start swimming away, it's always away from the noise, never into the noise. Imagine how they react to the whistling sound of the transmission lines.
Q: Do you think that (transmission line noise) has any effect on the animal populations near the... lines
?A: There are a lot of caribou that go right along the lines, it's probably nice and clear for them to go through. And as for a bear, he goes there, when the berries are grown, you see him a lot of the time. I've seen him (the bear) a lot of times right along the transmission line.
...along the corridor in that area, where the power line goes through, I find caribou and moose. And in the past couple of years I would find caribou that have died and I have no idea who shot them; I have no idea how they died. About three years ago I guess, I found six, but not all in the same area; in various different parts along the corridor and I don't know how they died.
Q: This just started three years ago?
A: One of the other changes I found is that before the project, I would hardly find any caribou there, but since the project, I find the caribou have moved into my trapline. It's only been in the past few years that I've seen them; this is one of the things I have noticed.
Q: The dead animals that you have found, what can you tell from their condition about would might have caused their death?
A: They were not shot or anything; I just found them cold. They were whole. No other animals had eaten them yet. I have no real idea; the only thing I could think of is that they probably came from the LG-3, LG-4 Reservoir. Maybe drinking the water or something like that is the cause. I think the water is not that good, and it may have been a factor in their death because there were no wounds, no nothing on them.
Q: Were they thin at all, could it have been that they didn't have enough food?
A: No, because this is where they could eat, its abundant, and they were not skinny or anything.
Q: What time of year was it that you found them?
A: It was from February to March. I cut the caribou to find out if they were good or bad; they died of something, if it had just died it wouldn't have been affected. But inside I found something; in most of them (the liver) had turned white, it was not the normal color of it.We found quite a few of them (caribou) and we checked all of them. There were a few (with normal livers), that just seemed to have died and those are the ones that we took to eat. But the other ones, we took and made a bonfire and burnt them all, so that nobody else would eat them.
Q: How many have you found over the past few years?A: In the past three years I have found eight of them, and my son W. has found two; that's ten within the past three years, we've found ten animals like that.
Q: Were they all along that transmission corridor or in different places?
A: I found them along the transmission corridor, but not in the corridor itself, off to either side of it, roughly about a mile and a half from the transmission corridor.
Q: Have you in your past experiences come across dead animals like this? Have there been times in the past where, because of a disease, or something else, you would find a particular species were dying like that over a period of a couple of years?
A: of the animals in the trapline, like the moose, the beaver, rabbit, and porcupine, I've never seen anything like that disease; I've never found any animals with that disease. It's only within the past recent years, since the caribou moved into my territory, and right away I found this (the situation with the dead caribou).
Q: Does that tell you anything about the health of the land; are there any problems with the land itself that might be causing that?
A: Well, since they established the corridor there, and I have another one running through here [referring to map], I've found that the land is not well within that area and I blame the transmission line. I can tell when it rains, I can hear, almost like a crackling, boiling sound because of, I guess, whatever power is running through it. Even in the winter time, I feel that whatever the transmission line is made of, or because of the rain or snow, anything might have leaked into the ground; I feel that the ground along that area is no good. I feel it's one of the reasons why caribou are dying along that area; something is not right within that area.
Q: You said before that you didn't find many animals near those transmission lines. How far on either side of the transmission lines would you say that you've noticed a decrease in the animal population?
A: Two miles on either side of it (the transmission line), then I would find activity like the moose, caribou, and rabbits. But within the corridor itself there's not very much; animals don't go in there. They pass through it and all that, but they don't stay within the corridor.
A: Along the transmission corridor I've found the berries and bushes are simply growing more there. It doesn't seem to have an effect on them. But we were told not to hunt or trap along the area where the transmission line is... I don't get anything from there.
Q: Do you notice the caribou follow the corridors'?
A: Not very much, the caribou wander, around the transmission lines and the transmission lines are going one way and the caribou are sort of crossing the transmission lines and going somewhere else. They usually don't follow the transmission lines, if they're heading towards the west. We can sort of get an idea of which way they were going, when another camp says the caribou are coming. And from where our camp is and when we look at the alignment, the alignment sort of points towards the west from their camp. When the caribou reach our territory there are other camps towards the south, C.'s and S.'s camp, they are sort of towards the south and when the caribou reached their camp, the caribou didn't go towards S.'s camp. Which was towards the south. The caribou would go more to the west. There were quite a lot of caribou, and S. didn't know about the herd.
I trapped one (beaver) off the transmission lines, not on the transmission lines but a stream which the transmission crosses. There's a lake close to the stream, that's where I trapped it, it had no fat on it, we couldn't eat it the way it appeared. I only took the pelt.
A: Not only the beaver and muskrat is affected, also the geese are affected from the power lines because they fly into the power lines and they break their wings. We found a goose that hit the power line and broke its wing. It was in the river and still alive; it was a very healthy goose and it was in the fall.
Q: How did you know that it flew into the power line?
A: Because he was in the river where there's a power line right over where he was. That's how we know he flew into the power line.
Q: How often do you think that happens?
A: I think it happens quite a lot and also I think the white birds and other birds that fly around are affected by the power lines.
Q: How do you think they're affected?
A: Because I have heard stories that white birds were found that flew into the power lines. They were found dead on the ground.
Q: How high are the power lines there?
A: They're probably about a hundred feet high at the poles and they curve down like this, they form a line like this in between the poles. That's how they are.
Q: When geese would fly into that, would it be when they're landing; is that why they would be that low?
A: Yes, I guess that's the time it happened to the goose; it was trying to land, or maybe it was during the night.
Q: Is there a certain type of weather that makes the power lines more difficult to see?A: When the weather is foggy and also when it's snowing in the fall.
Q: Is that when the ptarmigan, the white bird would be more likely to fly into it?
A: I guess that's when the white birds hit the wires and when it's snowing because they cannot see them.
Q: Do you notice anything else around those power lines?
A: I'm sure there's a lot more things that are affected by those power lines because a lot of the land is destroyed along the lines.
On our territory there are three transmission lines that run through it. Those transmission lines have killed the birds, the white birds fly right head on into these lines and it kills them. I heard that people found white birds along the transmission lines dead.
Q: What about the hydro lines? Did you helicopters flying around?
A: No, we didn't see much of it in our camp.
Q: Did you see any moose last year?
A: Yes, we saw quite a few last winter; where there was plenty of brush there was lots of them, however where nothing grew they weren't there.
Q: Where the fire was?
Q: When you saw their tracks were they in a certain area?
A: No, because the moose cannot stay in one place.
Q: What do you think is the problem?A: Maybe it's because of the power lines and the sounds they emit, especially when it snows, the sounds grow even louder.
Q: The moose doesn't stay there?
A: No, it cannot stay there, maybe it's because of the wolves. We tracked many. The moose cannot stay in one place, they usually roam around hillsides. I've noticed that the moose tends to stay in a open area and stays away from deeply wooded areas. Sometimes we saw places where they sat on a lake. It troubled me because the lines weren't that far.
Q: Was this last fall?
A: No, it was in March, we noticed that since the fall the moose moved around a lot and throughout the winter.
Q: Did you notice anything from their movement that would indicate that they were running from something or someone?
A: Yes, we saw their tracks on the lakes.
Q: What about the plants and animals that grow or pass under the transmission lines?
A: We do not set our snares close to the lines. If the animals hang around those lines it wouldn't do them any good because of the oil that is around the lines. They keep clearing the area so, is hard for the plant-life under the lines to grow to it's full potential.
Where the power lines run a lot of the awaashiisich lose their habitats because it scares them too. The beaver, as I recall, hardly ever stayed around the lake where power lines crossed. Probably the noise from the lines and whenever there is a storm the water/snow drips on the ground, it doesn't agree with them. So they go hide as far away as possible. That's the way a beaver is; once he's frightened in a certain place, he will never go back to that area or what it was that scared him. If anything scares them in the water, it really affects them badly. The others, like the muskrat, it's starting to affect them too. I don't see his tracks where he used to be, along the rivers or near the lakes. Muskrat are affected greatly by the noise and the pollution in the water where the power lines cross and where it has dried up the lakes and rivers.
Access or penetration roads were built in connection with the construction of the transmission lines, and one of the things I requested was them to clear where you had streams or small creeks. And when I went back I noticed that had been done, that was a corrective, that was a co-operative effort on the part of Hydro-Quebec, or the contractor who was doing the work. Because one of my theories was, people other than me, or people that I invite on my trapline might have a greater access into my trapline, either by skidoo or by truck from even other Cree communities like Mistissini.... I don't have as much a problem with people coming into my trapline as I did the year and a half that the construction was going on. During the year and a half of the construction for the transmission line, before they tore up that road, I knew people were coming in on that road, especially people from Mistissini.
Q: Earlier you mentioned the three transmission lines that run through your territory and birds thathave been killed by them; are there other ways that they affect your activities?
A: They are in our way. They did not consult us on what they were doing. One day it was just there.
The road goes right through my trapline, so that eliminates a lot of animal areas, as far as I'm concerned.
One of the biggest environmental changes that I've seen is lots of roads, penetration roads, access roads, a highway in my trapline. There's roads going to lakes, for gravel pits, borrow pits. The east end of my trapline is all road, gravel pits, borrow pits and roads going into the river or into lakes, like small roads for either small vehicles or probably for fishing. That's one of the biggest environmental changes in my land, my trapline, a lot of roads in it.
When you look at the map that's in front of us, it doesn't show all the penetration roads, or the access roads, or the gravel roads, it just shows the reservoir and it just shows the trapline boundaries.
The roads are being used for construction, they're also used for different land surveys, they're also used for some mineral exploration. Also, sports hunters are using them for moose hunting. They're also used for fishing.
N. Nowadays, if you have a camp along the highway that's accessible, anybody can go there and then if you have your belongings there, and all that, you don't know if they're going to be there next time you go there. That stressful for you, but a long time ago, when they used to stay in the bush, they used to make a cache, they left their stuff there and next time they would go out, everything was intact, the way they left it. You leave your camp now for three months at a time, then you go back, maybe some stuff is gone, so that's stress for you. You're losing trust in people if things are like that. I know if I had a camp along the highway, I think I would have a lock on it, but I would still be worried about my shack being broken into, my camp. But they didn't have that kind of worry a long time ago, even if another trapper came to the spot where they were, they didn't touch their stuff.You didn't take anything from somebody without asking, even if somebody did, there was only so many people that were in the area you were in, you knew who did it.N. They would leave a note, they would write a note, leave it there, if they really needed to take something, they'd say this is what they took.Now, everybody has got to lock up everything they have and make sure everything is where it's supposed to be. You're more concerned about protecting your possessions. Before, you knew if you left something there, you were pretty sure when you came back, it was going to be there. You didn't have that worry of somebody coming along and taking it. Before when most people went up, they would store some stuff along their route and they knew when they came through and they came back, they'd be able to get some more supplies, once they started to run out. It was very important to them and you were able to trust people not to touch what was yours.
There's two ways that I look at the roads. The benefit side of the roads is the access, I have easier access. Once I've been flown into my trapline I have easier access to certain things that I do, like hunting rabbits. I use the roads to hunt rabbits, partridge, and also to do some inventories of beaver lodges. So that is the benefit, it makes using the skidoo for the winter easier for me. One of the disadvantages is, in the fall I have a lot of moose hunting activity within my trapline because it's accessible by car, by truck.
When the road first came in my son and I used to shoot three moose a year. And there were signs of other moose in the area. We just left them there for the following year. But since the road came through, there have been signs of people killing moose in that area. This year I haven't even seen any moose tracks, from people killing the moose. And east of me, there's two other Wemindji traplines. They're feeling the same effect on the moose populations, since the road went through. South of the road, the people that are there, traplines that are not accessible by road, we hear them on the radio, they got all kinds of moose tracks. In there they are doing the same thing (as before), they are only killing a few, in order for the moose to come up, and it's only the ones that are accessible by road (that are being killed out).
Q: There is one other final thing I wanted to ask you, was about how the relationships between the individual Cree communities have changed over the past 20 years or so, whether because of competition over financial resources or competition over the traditional resources that has occurred because some communities had better access, for example, to certain areas than other communities have. Have you noticed any changes in that?
A: Well, there has been some change, I guess mainly due to access provided by roads and even by plane, the availability of other means of transportation. It's become maybe a certain point of issue between communities, but I don't think it has made a big change in the relations of communities. I don't think it's gotten to the point where one community has really negative feelings towards any other community. Of course I guess at certain times it's sometimes blown up to be a bigger thing, but I think in the majority of cases it has been something that's been resolved by the tallymen themselves. I don't think it has added to or contributed to the negative feeling between communities.
...one of the things I've found is that the people from Mistissini come trapping on my land here, especially around the lake. Plus there's a road that goes from here into the lake, it's not a permanent road, just an access road and there's hunting, but I have not seen any, on either side of the road. I have not seen whether there are any beavers or anything; I have not found that much game. The Mistissini people came in and trapped it all out and there's not that much left there. There's more access to that area and to the trapline. Because the Mistissini people trap along this part of the Sakami River, including all around the lake, Frigate Lake; that's one of the changes that has most affected the trapline.
Q: And that has only happened since the La Grande Project: have you only noticed that in the past twenty years or so?
A: I've only found that since the beginning of the La Grande Project. For the people whose territories are there, they come in through the border of the trapline. Plus it also makes it easier for them to go up the La Grande highway and come in through the other way (from the west). There is a dike there and the westward river is lower while the eastward has gone up. The limits have gone up and since the Mistissini people came in within the past twenty years there is hardly any beaver there. I blame it mostly on the Mistissini trappers; I feel that they have trapped it out. I have not seen that before, but with the roads now it's easier for Mistissini people to come in and trap.
Q: Are you anxious for the road so that you can go inland to hunt?
A: Yes many people are anxious for the road.
Other Cree communities have access to our reservoirs by road, which Eastmain people don't, so they know what happens between April and May.... All those other people who have access roads into their village, they can drive to the Opinaca River, to the Eastmain River, even drive to the reservoir.There is a real increase of spring hunters (in the reservoir areas), like in the last ten, fifteen years. Because at Km 409 on the Matagami-LG-2 highway, we have about two or three families of our community (who) established their camp there, and they come out usually in March to the community. Then after spring or in the summer when the tallymen or some of the hunters that are at Km 409, when they go back, we noticed people have set up night camps in different areas of the Opinaca River. So you can tell there's more activity, there's an increased flow of people that generally hunt for waterfowl within the reservoir or below the reservoir area.When we have our access road, we might encounter situations where a hunter from here has a trapline around the reservoir, (and) where somebody else from another Cree community has established himself there for the last five, six years, when we didn't have the access, because those guys can drive in there, they know which areas are good already. Now when we start, when we have our access, people naturally will take that advantage.. but some of the better spots, or the best spots will be already be taken. When we get to that bridge we'll cross that bridge, we'll have to have a solution how to solve it, but I'm sure that we'll come across that situation.
I enjoy staying in the bush. And when they finish the road, and we can have access to our trapline by boat, we can drive out to the dike and go by boat from there, I'll take them out. And myself, I had plans to -- well, retire early and spend some time in the bush. If I have a place to stay, not necessarily to trap, just to stay out in the bush. That's my plan for the future.
For somebody to fly from Eastmain to my trapline, the amount of money that you encounter in expense is a huge amount of money. So therefore people cannot concentrate on traplines or areas that are a great distance, because the only access that we have is by air, we're not accessible by road to a lot of our traplines. And may I remind you that some of our traplines are accessible by road from other Cree communities like Chisasibi, Mistassini and Nemaska.
As far as what people are going to come into my trapline, I know people from Mistassini will come in, I know people from Chisasibi will come in, I know people from Nemaska will come in. I also know that non-Native hunters will have good access to my trapline. And the other thing too is the control that I had on my trapline, the supervision will probably be limited because I can only fly into my trapline. I'm not even accessible by road to my trapline, and I don't have the confirmation that I will be accessible within a year or a couple of years. I've heard rumours but maybe someday reality will come into effect, and I will have an access road, maybe I can stay in my trapline a little bit longer or little bit earlier.
There's a lot of them along the kilometre 409, there's a lot of hunters from other reserves, from Nemaska or from Mistissini, there's people I know that hunt there. But I think they're still doing it all over the place there on the highway, other people's traplines, they're still hunting there.
Q: What do you foresee next year when this access road comes in, and the Eastmain trappers, tallymen from those areas will be able to have access to their traplines (in the spring)?
A: Well, once the road opens I think there's going to be a lot of changes, quite a few changes, because these people (residents of other communities) will be blocked from hunting on Eastmain traplines, they'll be blocked (by) the tallymen, I'm pretty sure of that. So I don't think they'll be able to do whatever they wanted to do on the traplines before. Once the access road opens, especially in the springtime, and especially in the fall too. Because it's not only geese that they kill on other peoples' traplines, it's furbearing animals also, like beaver and other furbearing animals, and moose, especially moose in the wintertime, at km 409.--
A: Since we had the reservoir, the James Bay project, there's more geese that fly inland every year; more and more geese fly that way, through the reservoir (area).
Q: And who's hunting them now?
A: The guys from Nemaska, Waskaganish, Mistissini -- that's the only guys that have access roads from the highway.
Q: So next spring, Eastmain will have its access road will be able to hunt geese there as well. Do you foresee any confrontations, possibly, between the hunters from Eastmain who have their historical right to use that land, and the hunters from these other communities who have been there over the past five or ten years?
A: Well, if we have the access road, if it opens next year, I'm pretty sure a lot of these people will be blocked from hunting from other peoples' traplines. A lot of people will go out through the access road to their traplines because there's more geese that fly inland.
There's also confirmation there will be a south-north road coming from camp Nemiscau. And at camp Nemiscau there's already a route to north that comes from Chibougamau. That of course will, in my mind, open up my territory. There will be easier access for sport hunters, for big game, for fishing. When I reflect back, I had some real encounters or experiences when the reservoir was created on the Eastmain River, when the cutoff happened.Sometimes when I sit back and think about what could happen in the future EM-1 reservoir, I'm concerned for the well-being for other Native hunters from Mistassini, Nemaska. As most of us know, we're not accessible by road to this area. Our presence is very limited within the reservoir or the future reservoir. If you have an access road come in from Nemaska, or even further south, people will have the tendency of going in the reservoir unsupervised.I had a wild experience on the Eastmain River when the water started rising. The water level goes to a certain height, it doesn't stay there, it fluctuates, sometimes it goes very low, and the ice stays high. I was driving along with my skidoo on the ice when everything just collapsed and fell through. Without any exaggeration the ice went down a minimum of ten feet. I was very fortunate, I landed on what was an island created by the reservoir. Imagine if I'd have been in an open area where it was just water, it would have been physically impossible for me to get out. So that is why I'm concerned (that) somebody will bring his or her truck to the reservoir area, he will see a huge lake, very tempting for good skidooing or good hiking on the ice, he might just have an experience like I had, he might not be as fortunate. It could cost lives. I've heard of an incident in Chisasibi, their reservoirs are accessible by road, by highway, somebody lost his life in the reservoir, almost in the same situation I was in. I said I was fortunate, but he was less fortunate, it cost him his life. So human presence in the reservoir during impoundment or even after it's reached its maximum level will always have to be very well supervised or very good care has to be taken.[Note: The following illustrates one of the dangers of unrestricted access to traplines in the reservoir areas.]
There's some people there had some problems just last week, from Nemaska I think. They have a camp there at 409. They had a hunting accident there, just last week. They tipped over in a canoe, I think, and one guy drowned. Same thing last year or the year before. That's two accidents they had there in the same place, (on the) Opinaca River.... The canoe was no good, their canoe had been lying around the beach there. I guess that's the canoe they used, this old, worn-out canoe. So that's the one they had an accident with, I think. I guess it sank, because they couldn't find the canoe after, they lost it under the ice, so it must have sunk. It must have been the same boat, because there was one lying along the beach there that was thrown away from SEBJ, SocietÃ© d'Energie de la Baie James) or whatever. They had some of those fiberglass boats there along the rivers. Harry was saying that there was one lying around the beach there last fall, I think that's the one they used, because they couldn't find the canoe. If it was a good canoe I don't think it would have sunk; the canoe must have broken, collapsed, because they lost it, it went under the current. It's a strong current there on the Opinaca River.
A: Before the road came in, there was a lot of wildlife that I could hunt and trap within my trapline. Now that the road has come in, and other people can come in through the road, I find that there is not as much wildlife there. I find it hard, just for ourselves to hunt and trap. Other people can hunt and trap along my trapline. I've noticed that when I see a beaver lodge, all the signs are there that there should be two beaver, but there's only one. Somebody obviously came in and trapped and went hunting. Even though I don't know who it is, I know somebody has been on my trapline, hunting, trapping. I find it a little harder now to hunt and trap in there. Most of the animals are trapped- or hunted-out.Since the road came in the people from Mistissini have been able to come in from this direction to go to their trapline. They go through my trapline, to get to their trapline. And not only that, they hunt and trap along the way. They take wildlife within my trapline. They say that they find it easier to go through this way. Doesn't cost them as much. And even other people, people from Chisasibi come in and hunt and trap along the road.
The only other things I have are skidoo trails I have made. People who come in, especially from Mistissini, have already traversed along my trails. Discovered and gone throughout my trapline....they also trap and hunt along my trapline and take what they want.
When the access road comes into the south side (of the Wemindji harbour) its always going to be illuminated by lights and it will affect the goose habitat. I am worried that the geese are not going to stay around there very long. My spring goose camp is located across the river, south from my camp there is a narrow channel where the geese used to land and feed for a while. I suggest that some sort of a blind be built across those narrows where the geese are coming from, I think the cost shouldn't be that high.
Q: Some kind of a screen so the geese could not see the lights or traffic lights along the river?
A: Something to block the lights; I imagine there will be lights. There should be a gate to block anybody from town or workers. The gate should be located at the cross-roads of the access road to keep people from entering the area from there. I am suggesting a gate be built around that area.
Q: So a gate to keep some people from having access to the coast? who would be using that, what could become a problem?
A: I am mainly worried about the adolescents, people who don't really have anything to do over there but to vandalize or whatever, be disrespectful to the area....I feel there should be a gate for that access road so that people won't go back and forth. The access road is going to be there for that purpose, the seaport, I'm the only one that should have access to that road because it's in my territory.
Q: Have you had discussions with the Band Council while this road is being planned, do you have some agreements already about control of who gets to come, or who does not get to come and use that road?
A: There are still some issues to be discussed.
Q: Does the Council have the power to put a gate up and prevent people from wandering down the coast? It is possible, I don't know, it's possible that the government is insisting that since they put money in, then it's got to be a public access road, I don't know about this issue; maybe you've heard something?
A: No, I have not heard anything, that's why I insist that the gate be put up there, nobody could go over there who doesn't have business to go over there, possibly the youngsters might go over there and something could happen to them.
Q: Do you spent time at your camp in the spring?
A: No, while the geese are along the coast, I don't camp there in the spring. That is where I would stay if the road was completed, that's why I can't stay there because a road is inaccessible.
Q: Do you think the road will be beneficial to you so that you can camp there?
A: It would be beneficial for me if it was completed, but I wouldn't bring alcohol. It wouldn't be beneficial for me in that way, it's been a while since I last drank.
Q: Over there at that trapline (along the highway to Caniapiscau) we were talking about, when the trapping season was over and you would leave to come back to your village, did you ever hear that your camp had been tampered with and abused?
A: Sometimes we would still be at our camp, and they would come from other villages. They would camp near our place, they didn't wait for us to go. And as soon as we would finally leave, I guess they went about and did whatever they pleased.
Q: So you would see signs of other people taking over and making campsites near your cabin?A: Yes, we would often see campsites of both Natives and non-Natives. I cannot say too much because it's someone else's trapline. if it was my trapline I would report these people and make it my business to say something, I guess, but it is up to the tallyman of that territory, he is responsible for that trapline. Now the area is sad and pitiful to look at, there are signs of people staying there even in the spring, near the bridge we used to see motor boats and canoes. They must have gone upstream and downstream, that's why there is a such a decline of fur-bearing animals. There was always tracks and signs of otter near that bridge, now it's like they been driven off that area, since more people have been going in there after we have left the area. The tallyman and also my son-in-law will be able to tell you more if you talk to them about this.
But once we get the road into Wemindji, I foresee that the hunters will be spread out a little more and I think there'll be more people going to the bush. Maybe a lot of these young fellows will decide to drive out into the bush, you know, inland, to find a way of living on the Income Security Program. But that depends a lot on whether they have the transportation. So things would be a lot easier for some of these people that want to go the bush, and hunting will be spread out much more with the road. Anyhow that's what I see, and I think it'll be good, like a lot of the hunting won't be confined around the village as it was, and it'll be good for the community as a whole. Once the hunting gets spread out more, when the road gets in, it won't be as crowded, in other words, it won't be as crowded along the coast as it is now or has been for the last fifteen years here.
A: I arrange the flights for the trappers.
Q: How many trappers are using that?
A: Those who are using it only use it because they don't have access roads. Some of the people who have access roads still use the plane to get into a remote area.Q: Is that an expensive service?
A: Yes. Very expensive.
Q: Who pays for that?
A: We get money from the Eeyou Corporation and Sakami Eeyou.
Q: Most planes are used for that?
Q: Are there helicopters?
A: Some, yes. It depends on the weather condition, if there's early freeze up, somebody will use the helicopter.
Q: How has the construction of roads and access roads in the region changed the use of the bush plane? Are there less people flying out?
A: Yes, there are less people flying out because of the roads. They used to pay for their transportation. We have subsidies now.
Q: For them to drive out there?
Q: Have the roads changed the way trappers use their trapline; are they using some areas more than others?
A: They are more likely to live beside the roads.
Q: Do you think it has hurt their ability to use their trapline on an even basis?
A: No, they leave the main camp to go out to a certain area. I'd say for about a week and they might move to another area another week. It all depends on the size of their trapline.
Q: Once they are out there, do they do their travelling by skidoo.
A: Yes, when it's safe.
Q: When things are frozen?
A: The advantages I would say are that we have better access to the area, easier and wider. We can go from one trapline to the other traplines in an hour to an hour and a half. There's a lot of poaching, like we noticed that beaver lodges just off the road are empty, some get shot and killed. We don't know who does this and we can't blame anybody. Some people say that these people are from Chisasibi, but they're not the only ones that use that road; we have people from Nemaska, and Mistissini too. Once we have the road we will have better access and there will be people travelling constantly on that road from here.
Q: Do you know if the road has brought Crees from other communities onto your territory?
A: Yes, people from other communities have come into my territory and asked permission to hunt moose; they just asked to hunt moose.
Q: So people generally ask permission to hunt in your territory, do they?
A: Maybe some kill without asking because they probably see the moose while travelling on the road through the territory.
Q: I am wondering about the places like the small rivers and creeks that run into the reservoirs and the small lakes that haven't been flooded (are there still beaver there)?
A: No, but it's people that are driving them out and killing them off.
Q: So this is an effect of the road?
A: Yes, one time on a big lake along the shore I set a trap for a beaver and got one. I kept the skull of the head because there was a bullet lodged in the front of the skull; nobody from our camp had put that bullet hole there.
Q: Do you think that these beaver are being taken by Crees from other traplines or other communities or are they being taken by non-Natives?
A: People from Chisasibi, Mistassini and people from the south. I don't think it's non-Natives.
Q: Do you think there's any progress towards solving these problems between the Cree?
A: Well we held meetings and discussed this among ourselves and other Crees, but there is no game warden and the people from Mistassini don't want one. I guess they are afraid of getting caught too many times; that's why they don't want a game warden.
My grandfather's been dead for almost forty years now, and only three years ago I realized his teachings. On this nice day I was flying down to Val d'Or, very nice like today, you could see everything on the ground from the air. And I saw this white thing going up north, just a lone white thing. That was the highway. When I was smaller I remember him telling us that there is going to be a white snake coming up north. It's going to devour some of us, it's going to bring some good things to some of us, but only the wise people, the ones that don't go with the flow, will be able to survive as Natives, he told us. I never realized that I always expected a big snake to come to our community. For a few years I forgot about it, I never thought about it after that. And then the booze started coming in and I heard about drugs coming in as well. And I myself went on the white road, on the highway, to get some groceries. I did a very good job of it, I saved a lot of money from the groceries that I bought. And then that time when I flew down to Val d'Or on a nice day, when I was looking down, then I realized what he meant. It wasn't actually a snake he was talking about, he was talking about this highway coming up north. It brings in booze; when people go out they bring in booze, they bring in drugs, they bring in whatever. And some people will go out there just to buy groceries, like myself. And I realized then that's what he meant; he didn't mean a real snake, he just called it a snake. And I wondered how he knew there was going to be a highway coming up north.
Q: There some talk of establishing a monitoring program for ongoing social and environmental impacts of the road. What kinds of things do you think should be kept an eye on.A: The game warden people have come here and asked if they can get people to train in their field. They need lots of game wardens to monitor the roads; it's Chisasibi that has always been asking for that. So they are saying that they would probably have a budget to hire one of these people if they could get two or three trainees; that's for the hunting and fishing. But the other thing I imagine there's going to be an issue about is a road block, like what Chisasibi has. That's what is being talked about. There are some that say that you can't legally block the road. I imagine that the council pays the salaries. I get people complaining that they got visits from the SQ who told the council that it was illegal; if the government has paid for it they can't do that, but the community can as a group. (For some years Chisasibi has maintained a road block outside the village as a check for alcohol,)
Sports hunters are using roads for moose hunting. They're also used for fishing. And also, the Matagami-LG-2 highway runs right through my trapline, it splits my trapline east-west. And you have a road that runs on the south shore of the Eastmain River, it goes to two sills.... It makes a lot of access to moose hunters, game hunters, and I don't think it's necessarily hunters that are legally hunting there.
I'm experiencing people fishing, with float planes where it's not accessible by road, but if it's accessible by road they take their truck as close to the area and then either go by four-wheelers, and some even portage to the lake, because it's close to the highway. So I'm experiencing a lot of people fishing, you know, white people, non-Native people fishing.In the fall I know of people that are, with or without permits, hunting moose around my area.
When you come on Matagami-LG-2 highway, it branches off at (km) 393; my camp is right there. I see people go by. The highway is about a kilometre up from my camp, so I know what goes in the construction road. When they know that I'm there, I guess, they don't bother going in. But I know, like when I'm not there, I see the activity of people that have been there. They leave the guts and things like that of their kill.
I have sports hunters who come in, non-Native hunters, they pitch their camp, their tents; their trucks are on the side of the road, their trailers, all along that access road to the dikes. And I also see that they make towers for observation, to observe the animals. There's certain remains of what they kill that they leave behind. And I have a friend from Nemaska who visited my trapline during the fall, during the moose season, and right on my trapline there was a camp there, they were camping, there was a group camping. We noticed they were shooting at anything that moves, so I felt unease every day during the moose hunting season. I feel unease about travelling or actually being on my trapline. And the same thing for my friend, even my friend from Nemaska was told by one of the sports hunters that he shouldn't be there at the time when they're hunting the moose. (The sports hunter) said, "Maybe you should be somewhere else because I might shoot you by mistake." And...I mentioned this to the local authorities and also when I was a delegate of the General Assembly, maybe there should be more strict or better control of access roads or roads that exist on Cree traplines.
When I go to my lake in the fall, from my lake I can hear people shooting on the access road, on the gravel road that leads from the Matagami-LG-2 highway and goes to the site of the Opinaca reservoir, there are 105 km of gravel road there. I hear people shooting, like sports hunters, and I try to stay away from that road during that period because I'm afraid somebody might shoot me by mistake.
There is an old construction site just below the bridge on the Eastmain River, on the Matagami-LG-2 highway, there's an old camp there. Along the shore there I see people fishing. There's a little road, a little gravel road that goes in to the banks of the river, so it's accessible by truck, they come off the highway, go in right to the bank of the river. So a lot of hunters come in with their canoes on their trucks, they concentrate in the area from the Matagami-LG-2 highway crossing to the sill, especially in the fall. And there's also a number of towers for moose observation that they use, so I see a lot of moose hunters in that area in the fall, and I see some fishing. I can only say that's where I've seen them, but then again don't forget that you can fish just about anywhere you want where it's accessible by road. There was one party that was fishing on one of the culvert creeks off kilometre 381.
I just wanted to mention that, talking about non-Native hunters coming in, there's a shed (here) that was constructed by non-Native hunters for moose. They have a little camp, they have a shed, and they also have a tower as a lookout. And I never consented to that, nobody ever told me about it, nobody ever asked me about that. I just happened to be in that area one time and I saw the shed plus the tower, and I know that they're there for moose hunting, they're there every fall since they made that camp.They have a main camp here, they go by canoe up here on like daily excursions, they stay there for the day, sometimes they probably sleep over. And depending on the hunt there's another area here where they just have a shed, here they have a tower. And this here is accessible by road, there's a road that comes off at kilometre 495,496 on the Matagami-LG-2 highway, there's a gravel road that goes to the Eastmain dike and to the Opinaca reservoir. It's accessible right to the sill. So they bring their car or truck right to the bank of the sill, they take their canoe and they go to their camp, they have a main camp and they have a couple of little outposts for daily excursions.
It's a private operation, they don't have invited guests, it's just a group, a minimum of three and a maximum of probably five hunters. And the two gentlemen who started it were working on LG-2. My brother's son, Joe, he used to work at LG-2 before, and he's very good in French, he talks to a lot of people and a lot of people know him. He got a chance to talk to this group of hunters. This shed here, the hunters told him, is open for the tallymen to stay, or anybody who hunts in these traplines can stay there as long as they don't tear it apart. And that is true too, they don't lock the place, it's not locked, it almost looks like it's been prepared to accommodate me if I wanted to take that and live there for a trapping season, like in the fall right into the winter, because they only use it in the moose hunting season. And they said that I could use it all winter if I wanted to concentrate on that area.I spent a couple of nights in this cabin. There's three very comfortable beds in there. I slept three nights, I could have slept in a different bed each time if I wanted to. So I assume other trappers that go in there, or other people that go in there have used it.
Q: Have you noticed any effect in terms of the moose population in this region of having non-Native hunters come in and use this area for moose hunting?
A: 1 have a feeling with their presence there that the moose population has declined in that area. I don't know what they do, I don't know what activities they carry out during their hunt, but one of the things I've noticed is they leave a lot of remains when they kill a moose. I found what I believe to be a head one time, I guess this was one of the moose they caught without any antlers. I also noticed one time in early fall, somebody had been there with a skidoo and killed a (moose), I knew they used a skidoo to track down the moose. And some of the legs and some of the intestines, a lot of the internal parts of the moose were left lying around. And I could only say it was not a Cree, because some of the parts they left are very well respected or considered as a delicacy for a Cree, not to be left on the snow like that. I'm not saying it's the same group of guys that have the cabin there, but somebody had been there with a skidoo and I'm sure it was not a Cree.
Q: So you can tell by what parts you find, by finding the remains that way whether it's a Cree or non-Cree hunter that's been using your land?
A: On my trapline in this area here I know there's Native activity in there, I also know there's non-Native activity. If I saw two areas where moose have been harvested or moose have been taken, I would be able to identify just by looking at how they chopped the trees, how they marked the willows, some of the ways they set up their camp, their tents, I would be able to know if it was a non-Native or a Native hunter. I have a whole bunch of islands on my trapline on that stretch of the river. Right on this small island there was a camp, somebody had pitched a tent there. And I knew they took a moose, I found four legs, the guy just chopped them off and just laid them there, one, two, three, four, in order. And if it had been a Cree, not only from my village but from Chisasibi or the other Cree communities, he wouldn't have left them like that. Even if he didn't want to take them he wouldn't have left them sitting like that being so visible. What usually Crees do is they chop the leg all up, they chop the leg into little pieces, even the hooves, they chop them up and they make a little fire and they burn them off. So I know I would be able to tell by some of the remains they leave behind or some of the activities they do.
Yes I always try to stay in there (tallyman is referring to his trapline). Again this spring, I'll be staying in there and I'll try to patrol some of these areas where people are using the road. This spring, I'm going to be in there, if I don't get sick. I intend to stay in there. In my landing area, I was talking about previously, we've seen some non-Natives there, they're spreading a lot of garbage on the landing and in the water. And they told us it wasn't them, that these were the guys who were cleaning up the garbage. And they picked-up all the garbage and it was somebody else that was leaving their garbage behind, in that area. I notice, it wasn't all Cree people who were doing that, in how the fish were cut up, they just skinned the pike and took only the meat. And the bone and the head were all thrown back into the lake.Today, when I think about it how that lake is treated, you know, it's the only lake that I can leave for my boys when I pass on, and the way they're treating that lake, a few years down the line, they won't be able to get any fish from there and that's what scares me. They might not be able to get as much fish as I used to get from that lake.
...whenever white hunters go hunting, right along the highway on my trapline... they leave the guts anywhere. They don't try to put them in an area where they can be disposed of, you know, they leave them all over the place. Sometimes white hunters shoot caribou right on the lake and they don't drag their caribou to the shoreline, or inland to gut it out, they just do right on the ice. And sometimes on the lake that the animal is killed, when I put my net out where this happens, where you see a lot of guts out on the ice, and by the time the lake is unfrozen, everything just goes right into the water. How dirty or how unclean is it, by the time it goes into the water? What effect does it have on the water? Especially when you're getting fish out of that water for supply.
Q: Do you think that those kinds of things say something about how these people look at the land, and treat the land and the way you, yourself were raised? How you learned to think about land and think about the animals that were there?
A: I don't think (those) people really give much care to the land as I do. Because they leave their guts out there. And there was one time that I found one small caribou (fetus) right beside where the guts were, and this happened right in front of my cabin. If they had given more thought to the land, I don't think they would have left all these guts all over the place. There was one time that I followed the transmission lines and I came upon three caribou that were shot, but there was only one that was gutted out. The other two were left and by spring, when I checked them again, those two caribou were still there. Somebody just shot three and only took one.
Q: There was another issue that I wanted to ask you about. Do you have access roads into your territory that sport hunters are using at some point in the year?
A: Yes, there is one road that leads into my territory. On the east end of my trapline, the road that catches on to the east end of my territory is not a very big area. And there's also another one, a more recent road. It was built about three years ago, to the west. And we've heard about people using that road to hunt in the area and also other people told stories of people hunting in that area too. But the camps from L.'s and C.'s territories know of the hunting by other people. And there's a cabin we have here. When we leave the cabin or their camp, we usually get some firewood and usually leave a whole bunch of firewood in our camp. And when we went back there, we noticed that there was some firewood missing. Like somebody apparently was staying there and using the firewood. And in the cabin, we found some writing in the cabin.I don't know what kind of animals that person was trying to kill; we think that they were trying to get some moose. And that person that was staying in the cabin wrote his name in the cabin and the period that he was staying there. And I have the name of the person that was staying there in my pocket. And that person, we were told comes from the Montreal area.I found a trap in the area. The kind that you step into and there's wire going across, and when you go across the wire, when you put your foot in the snare that's lying on the ground, it's a type of trap that pulls your leg up. And up above there's a boulder tied to the snare. And I don't know if it was that person who made that trap, the one I've got the name of in my pocket.I'm certain that it wasn't a Native who set up the snare, because Natives don't set up their snares in that fashion. And Natives who put up snares, they usually take them out when they're finished with them. This person who set up the snare never bothered to take it down. If an animal had stepped in there, it would have been left there to die. Even a human, if a human had crossed there and didn't noticed anything was there, he'd probably have been trapped there too. I took down the snare myself.
Q: It was a snare for a big animal then?
A: Apparently this trap was meant for a big animal. It was set up in an area where the animal couldn't go up a hill. They'd walk alongside a hill and there's a clearing there, most animals or people go along that area. They would usually not go up the hill. And if it happened that a human was walking by there in the dark and he walked into this trap... That trap surely would've pulled up a human, because of the size of the boulder that was tied to the snare. And the trap was, a rope was used in that snare. It was not just a small twine, it was a big rope. And often, it's a lot of times when a trapper would walk around during the whole day, he'd usually arrive at the camp late at night. I could see it during the daytime, because the rope was yellow in color. But in night time it would be hard to know there was a snare there or a trap.
Q: Did you ever see that kind of snare before?
A: I've never seen anything like it before and I knew that my father would not set up a trap like that. But I knew what it was and I started to investigate it. What it could do, I knew about that. That's when I crossed the line that was going across and I put a stick across it and the snare rope went up when I did that.
The old people are not saying anything because nobody is listening to them, they're not even consulted on what's going on. People must believe that these people have a lot of knowledge and can give us a lot of good advice, especially in trapping and what to expect in a cold winter like last winter was. You get good advice from the old people about hunting in the same areas. On the highway you see a lot of people travelling with their vehicles and hunting along the road especially when the caribou are around their territory. Moose are starting to walk away from the road because there's too much shooting going on the highway because of the caribou.
Q: How's the population of big game, moose and caribou, these days?
A: In remote areas there is more moose. In areas accessible by road there aren't any because of the sport hunters. Sport hunters are more likely to hunt along the roads. About ten years ago there were hardly any moose in the coastal areas, only inland. Now we have moose along the coast.
Q: Why is that, do you think?
A: It's because of the sport hunting and the hydro lines. I believe the moose comes to the coastline because of the projects and the roads.Q: So the coastal areas are less affected by the projects?
Q: So the moose prefers to be there and there's less pressure from the sport hunters?
Q: Do you think having the access road to the community is going to change that at all?A: I guess so.
Q: Who do you think Will be using that road, besides people from the community?A: Everybody, anybody.
Q: What kind of intrusion have you had on Category II lands?
A: Well, there's very little because there's very little access except on the far end, near the highway. But non-Natives with skidoos come in; there are no boundaries so nobody knows what category it is. I was talking to the game warden and he says he's having problems knowing exactly where the boundaries are for Category II and non-Natives are not allowed in to fish and hunt on this land; they need a permit from the local authorities.
Q: Basically there is very little land between the highway and the border of Category II?
A: Yes. It's about ten or twelve kilometres. I don't know what can be done unless there is clearing that shows the boundaries. In Category I there is a clearing that shows...
Q: Cut lines?
A: Yes. There are cut lines a few meter's wide right around Category I. We have people that are camped in Category II but they tell us that they are not there for fishing, just for recreation. They just go there and camp, they go canoeing and driving skidoos around, but they don't hunt at all or that's what they tell us.
Q: Are these people residing in Wemindji?
A: No. These are people from Radisson.
Q: They are in the Wemindji Category II land?
A: Just before you get to the highway and north of it; there are some camps there.
Q: Are they using the winter road?
A: No. There is another access road, they go in with skidoos. I don't know how far they go in but some of them don't go in very far. I think there are two or three that come right into Category II. I haven't seen those vehicles, I just got back, but some said they saw some cabins.
Q: Whose trapline?
A: The M. people had some problems with some people camping; that was in Category III land and the people camping there wanted to hunt moose or caribou. They were told that those people were there illegally because they had no building permit. Our problem is that we don't know who the proper authorities are to contact to discuss these things. I guess some of the non-Natives are starting to realize that if they cooperate with Native hunters... I know that the M. Family allows them to use the cabin during the winter and only once was there fire wood left in the cabin, and they wanted it cleaned because they use it in the fall when they go moose hunting. We got two or three (outsiders' cabins) in Sakami for the people and I've talked with one of them and he says it's never locked and you can use it.
Q: How do you feel about that?
A: Well this particular guy is married to an Inuit and he's got an Inuit beneficiary number so the game wardens can't touch him. There are two or three people that are interested in starting outfitting in that area; they came to us and asked us if we could join a venture and that the operation would be under our name, it would be like a Native outfitting thing but they wouldn't charge us -- silent partners. They would do all publicity, that's what they were saying, but we never sat down and discussed it.
Q: I guess when the (permanent access) road comes through, it's going to cut mostly through Category II land and also Category I land; how will that affect your jurisdiction?
A: I haven't seen the legal document on that but I heard a rumor that the land is going to be Category III, like a corridor. I know there's been talk about that but I don't know if the council would approve of it because of the problems with non-Natives. They can't build the road unless they have permission for the land, and I think it has to do with maintenance as well; they wouldn't maintain it if it wasn't on their jurisdiction but that hasn't been cleared up, they are still talking about it. The right of way, I think is going to be Category III, but if they do that then they will have to replace the same amount of land else where.
Q: Has the road brought sport hunters on to your land?
A: Yes, there are a lot of moose hunters in the fall, they even have a cabin off the road. I've only seen moose hunters; I don't know if others are around.
Q: Do you feel there is enough moose in the territory to share with sport hunters?
A: In the odd year moose are plentiful, but other years they aren't. I was there two years ago, but not last year, but I heard from people staying there that there were plenty of moose.
Q: Do you know if the sport hunters are successful killing moose or if they kill any?A: I don't think that they're successful every year; some do, some don't.
Q: Do you have good moose hunting on your territory?
A: Yes, but not near the road.
Q: So you don't have much trouble with sport hunters?
A: No. Just the local people like hydro workers, odd people taking a day off. I noticed three little cabins in the area, and had a talk with the game warden; he knew every one of them and said they were workers from hydro.
Q: Three little cabins built by hydro workers?
A: Yes, they go for moose hunt in the fall. They said one of them was a police officer but I don't think he's there anymore. The thing is that they don't lock those cabins, and the game warden told me we could use them.
Q: Was this the Cree game warden?
Q: What's his name?
Q: What about the caribou hunters?
A: Yes, there is a slight change on that because I went all over the place making sure they don't dump the guts at the cabin, like before. I don't notice that so much, even after hunters going there, near my cabin after last year.
Q: Because you were there?
A: Not because I was there; the road was open before I was there at least two weeks but I didn't notice anything.
Q: Why did that change happen?
A: I was talking to the game warden and I think he went to see SEBJ or something. They tried to do the same thing in June of last year. All kinds of people went fishing in Sakami. They left all their garbage, even though they have a place there for the washroom and tanks to put their garbage in. Nobody bothered with the garbage. Then I went to Radisson to talk to the game warden and he called SEBJ and two days after somebody came and cleaned it up. I went to see those guys, I told them as long as they keep fishing here I come every second day.
Q: Have you found cases of sport hunters or fishermen leaving dead animals or wasting animals'?
A: No, the year before was bad; there would dead caribou around. However this year has changed. The only ones we saw are the ones that were hit by transport trucks.
A: I kind of like the idea of the roads so that people can get around more easily to their traplines or go shopping. But I still don't want to see more land being damaged, and it affects the fish when the sports hunters leave the guts of the caribou on the lakes; this affects the fish and beaver. They shouldn't leave the guts on the lakes because when it thaws out it's very stinky and it spoils the habitats of the beaver and fish especially when they leave these guts on a small lake. There was a warning one time about the caribou; they said to check the liver of the caribou before eating them. We caught twenty caribou last year and checked out the ones that were bad, not good to eat, and we were only able to take ten and had to burn the other ten. We burned them and that's what they (sports hunters) should do to the guts instead of leaving them on the lake.Q: Are there any particular types of fish that are especially sensitive to the effect of guts left on the water?
Q: Have there been any sport hunters or fishermen going on your trapline?
A: No, I don't think so, I haven't noticed any sign that they could be there. I noticed closer to Sakami Lake there is a place where they disturbed. Apparently C. hung up an aluminum plate and it had two bullet holes in it. It had to be a whiteman, not a Native, because they don't travel through that area. And a Native person would not do that. The only time the whites were in the area before the dam and road, they set their big tent up near Sakami Lake. I think they had taken traps out of the area. That is when I figured out they take people's stuff. I found the traps later at their camp site. I must have helped them because I took them from their camp back to our camp. I'd know who they were, but I noticed two beaver pelt stretchers in their cabin. I didn't know who they were, there was no signs of markers, nothing.
Q: Were the beaver stretchers you found made by Native or white guys?A: A whiteman because a Cree person makes his very different from the way they made them. The shape was very different. They must have been there without anybody knowing. I mentioned it to a game warden about twenty years ago, I was to take the warden to the site, but the guy never showed up again. He was going to see all the sites, but I guess he didn't have time. It was winter when the whiteman lived there, I hoped the game warden would see that camp during the summertime so he could see what was there.
There's also this Matagami-LG-2 Highway that runs through my trapline... Within a certain mileage corridor of the Matagami-LG-2 highway there's virtually no animal population at all. Maybe it's because of the traffic and the noise, (but) there's no sense for me to concentrate on the area.
One of the other things too that I've noticed in my trapline, especially on the river just below the crossing of the Eastmain bridge, and even on the creeks crossing the Matagami-LG-2 highway, construction workers or other people tamper with inactive or active lodges. They destroy the food pile, and I've even come across cases where they actually ripped open the beaver lodge itself.
To honestly say, I would say five miles on both sides of the road is useless as far as animals or beaver, or especially big game. Last year we had some big game, we experienced some big game on the Eastmain River. Some of the local hunters and some of the hunters from other Cree communities that came to our territory, they killed five moose just about five miles below the Eastmain bridge. So that area was good for moose. And I went back there this fall or this winter, and there's nothing, there's virtually nothing there. But as you come down the river to the junction of the Opinaca and the Eastmain Rivers there is a good population, there's a lot of tracks for moose and so the population seems to be good. And also I want to point out too, I found a dead moose on my trapline last fall. I don't know if it had been wounded, died of wounds, but I found one on my trapline. Nobody claimed responsibility for that.
My neighbours have a highway going through their trapline. I've known their trapline before the existence of this highway, I know the animal population. If A. or C. were here today they would tell us how different is the population they've observed in the last ten, fifteen years as a result of the activity. And that's exactly what's going to happen on my trapline if there's a road going through there -- the noise, the pollution, and everything else that comes with workers, disturbing animals with a lot of activity. Even my moose will get affected. They'll probably part for a few years, but them, they usually come back. Maybe in about five, ten years after I have a gravel road or access or construction road, maybe I will get a moose on the road, because they usually come back. But for beaver, once they go they usually go, unless it's a new family.
I travel often on the winter road from Eastmain, go to the Matagami-LG-2 highway to get to my trapline. The winter road in Eastmain comes out at (km) 350, and I've traveled north on that Matagami-LG-2, I've traveled south. When I look at the layout of traplines close to the reservoir or to the construction area, when you look from the window when you're travelling by car, you don't see or even hear of other trappers saying there's a lodge there right beside the road or blocking the culvert. If you move down south to the next trapline, which is about ten, 15, even say 50 kilometres away from any construction site, other than the road itself and the transmission lines, then you start seeing some lodges along the side of the road.
I want to share with you an experience that I had at kilometre 364 on the highway, there's a nearby lake there. The second year after the diversion I discovered a lodge there. I knew it was a good populated lodge. I sort of saved it for the winter, this was in the early fall that I discovered it, I sort of saved it. There's a certain portion of my trapline (where) the beaver population was always low, or there was no beaver at all, and that's the south corner of my trapline. And I never harvested those beaver that year, the first year I discovered this lodge. The following fall when I came back, I noticed that there had been some construction going on or somebody had taken some gravel, there was a borrow pit nearby. When it was time for me to take some beavers out of the lodge, on my first day there I set two leg-hold traps. I got two three-year-olds from that lodge. And as I was checking my traps, I was sort of feeling the bottom of the entrance of the lodge with a stick or with my snow shovel, and I noticed there was something blocking the entrance. So I made efforts to pull it out and it was an adult beaver that had been shot or had been wounded and was dead, right in the entrance (to the) lodge area. And that year I found five dead beaver in that lodge, around the lodge. I'm sure it was either the construction workers or somebody had come along and tampered with my lodge on my trapline. So that's what happens when you have good access to a trapline, you lose a lot of beaver, a lot of fur-bearing animals like that.
I'd see a lot of moose along the road when it was first built (south of LG-3 reservoir). Now you don't see them, the moose has gone further into our trapline to get away from the highway. And also since the flooding of this river, the water level rose and there's hardly any more beaver there or muskrat or other animals that used to be along there.
A: I feel that the wildlife has been impacted by the winter road (community access to Wemindji). Most wildlife, waterfowl that are able to move, run or fly are becoming scarce, while the wildlife that is located on land where it's quiet and undisturbed stays put. It's been affected mostly by the winter road, the wildlife is gone and not abundant as before the winter road; all those who are able to, have gone somewhere else since the winter road. I guess that is why the winter road is here because of the village that was set up there [interviewee refers to existence of Radisson, which required LG-2/Matagami road, which in turn made possible community access road].
Q: Which kind of wildlife has gone elsewhere?
A: Lynx are affected and the otter.
Q: Any others?
A: Well, the mink are not that affected and the beaver usually stay where they find a pond and also people have not really trapped beaver on my territory, at least I have not heard of anything like that going on.
Q: What is it in the character or the behaviour of the lynx and otter that makes them go away from the road?
A: It's mostly due to the motorized things like skidoos that have chased the lynx away from the territory. The noise from the skidoos and too much crossing of lynx's tracks seems to drive them away. It's different from when we used to go on foot or by snowshoes. They usually come back later however, but not very often since we start using skidoos.
Q: When you say "chased away from the territory," do you mean your own territory or just a small area around the road or a very big territory, the territory of the Wemindji people as a whole?
A: Not only my own territory. I have also heard from the other trappers. When trappers go up the first time, then they go up another time, they notice lynx tracks are not as plentiful, not only on my territory but the other traplines also.
Q: Are there more lynx early in winter when they started out than later in the season?
A: Usually early in the season I would see more lynx tracks and they seemed to be around, but not anymore, there are not as many lynx in my territory now.
Q: Is it just that they are staying away from the roads, the skidoo trails and hiding in some other areas where its more difficult to get to, or are there just fewer lynx everywhere because of the disturbances?
A: I suspect that the lynx probably go somewhere else. When I wanted to go where I would expect a lynx to be, I would stop my skidoo and walk from there, stop quite a distance away, so as not to disturb the lynx.
Q: And now in those areas where you would expect them to be, there are not so many'?A: I noticed that where there used to be some lynx in an area where I expected them to be, now there's not too many.
Q: Is it pretty much the same with the otter? Similar reasons for the otter with the noise and disturbance?
A: Otter are affected too, whenever they see the road they don't go in the area. I heard where an otter would abandon his offspring if it were disturbed.
Q: Is this something you have seen yourself or some other hunter told you about it'?
A: I heard it from other people, that once an otter picks a place to bring up its offspring and if somebody disturbs it, the otter doesn't go back there anymore.
Q: I wondered earlier, you mentioned that the road doesn't seem to affect the beaver as much, the beaver goes where the ponds are. What about moose? Have you noticed how the road is having an effect on the moose?10.8.28.
A: The moose is affected too, sometimes my son would go out, he'd see the moose tracks, if there was a skidoo going by the moose would run off. There is not very many moose around my trapline.
Q: How about since the Matagami-Radisson highway, have you noticed any other impacts on wildlife?
A: Yes, the wildlife have been disturbed. I no longer can trap as much beaver as before. Beaver have always been consistent in this area to the south, you've seen waterways there, two streams where the highway crosses. Beaver have been consistently present in these two streams in the past. Today beaver habits are not the same because people kill the beaver. Whoever sees them probably kills them, that's what I found out, what was done, lots of people kill the beaver. What I think, since the highway was constructed, everyone whose trapline the road goes through says the same thing, they say they can no longer obtain food in the vicinity of the road. Whatever they (poachers) see, they kill it. What I think since the highway, if (James) Watt were still alive, the beaver-boss (Indian Affairs beaver preserve administrator) he was called, he surely would have interrogated them. He would have done something about it; he was serious about his position. He was the one who marked the trapline boundaries... That's what I know today, it's like everything is being covered by the highway. All those whose trapline the road goes through sound the same; the people whose trapline has no highway don't feel the same affects. We suffer a lot, the wildlife isn't there that's supposed to be there.Since the damming and the highway, that's how everything came about, all those impacts. I have found evidence of people kind of looking for something, and I know why someone is doing that; he's looking for beaver. There's still an impact here even though the dam is at a distance.
A: I find since the project, there's more moose because of the road that comes up that way and also this year I find there's more caribou in my area. They come around there but they go back up north in April.
Q: Could you explain how the roads and the moose are related?A: Maybe because of the road, like the road is wide and also they clear-cut along the road area, and then new vegetation grows along there. Maybe that's why the moose are attracted to that area. And also the beaver is plentiful along the roads when there's a creek going across the road.
Q: What kind of roads are you talking about here?
A: The James Bay highway.
Q: The Matagarni LG-2?
Q: So you find beavers are active in those areas where the road goes through?A: Yes, along creeks?
Q: Do you see lodges there?
A: Yes, there's beaver houses there and they also build their dams.
....I see a lot of dead caribou just off the road or beside the road or on the shoulder of the road.I imagine the ones that are on or just beside the road in the ditch were probably hit by vehicles.
Q: Has the presence of the road caused any problems for you?
A: The thing they put on the highway is not good, especially for the ptarmigan. When you plow the road it ends up on the side of the road. It is not good for the animals and birds. Whatever wildlife runs around on the ground, it does not do them any good.
Q: What do they put on the road?
Q: What effects does the road have?
A: It doesn't do much damage; the main thing I've noticed was when they placed pipes under the roads for the water to go through; they froze during the winter time thus flooding the beaver lodges and drowning them. Other than that the road has been helpful to get around.
(Beaver) like to hang around where the road is, you know ...they had to clear-cut for the road and now the willows are starting to grow, fresh ones. They like the fresh willows.
Q: So the disturbance from the road doesn't seem to bother them, but do they come and build close to the road?
A: We don't seem to find the ones near the road. I guess that's because of other hunters.
Q: People from outside your territory are killing them as they are close to the road?
Q: So they are building there but they get killed?A: Yes...
The only ones (discarded caribou carcasses this past winter) we saw are the ones that were hit by transport trucks.
Q: Does that happen a lot, transport trucks hitting caribou?
A: Yes. I can't remember the figure that somebody gave me for the number of caribou killed with a transport truck somewhere on LG-3 road, last year. I don't have the figure but somebody said it was about ten or twenty.
Q: A truck ran into a herd?
Q: The caribou that were hit by truck -- there were at least twenty killed by a transport truck, did this occur on your land?
A: No, not on our land; there was another bunch behind that had been hit also so there were about forty altogether. My son had to shoot one to put it out of misery; there was so much blood and smearing of the blood all over the highway that someone could have had an accident.
I saw some dead caribou on the highway who were hit by a transport truck; there were about nineteen caribou scattered all over the highway and nobody will eat them at all. They were just there because they were killed by the impact of the truck. An Iyiyuu (Eeyou) never destroys and wastes food the way the whiteman does. I don't know who's responsible for what happened, if it was a (Anglo-) whiteman or a Frenchman. And for that, a lot of food was wasted and the caribou's population will not grow as it should on a yearly basis.A lot of these trees are destroyed because of the dams, the blasting that took place to make the road and the dams. The clearing where the road is built on, these trees were cut down, hills were dynamited, and rivers flooded or dried up. All the destruction is devastating to see. Even when they try to fix up the lands, it can never be exactly the way it was before it was destroyed. Even with the replanting of the trees and bushes. The animals who used to feed off these lands, what they were used to now is not there any more, they can't find it at all because it has been destroyed. When sand is being transported, a lot of it spills and this destroys the animals' food, such as plants, bushes, berries and insects. The reason why this happens is because of the roads Hydro is building, leading to and from the dams and where the power lines run. Even if it's just used as a temporary road to get sand, rocks and hills dynamited, if the animals are near the blasting, the noise from the dynamite is very loud compared to the gunshot. If a person is far from the site he still can feel the blast. Imagine how startled these "awaashiisich" are and how frightened they must be hearing the noise. The shaking of the ground probably confuses this awaashiisich and they don't know where to run and hide. Some animals must be very scared when they hear the blasting, especially if they are close to the blasting area, and then they run and hide as far away as they can.That's the reason why animals are very scarce around the hydro power lines. All the activities taking place with all the noise constantly affects the animals, not only the animals, also people.
Q: The first question I want to ask you is, what have you discovered since the highway crossing was put in at Yasinski Lake?
A: I immediately found out I no longer caught as much fish as before. As I witnessed the construction of the highway, I was skeptical about my fishing activities at the point. Towards the east, where the highway crosses the lake, the water level isn't the same as it was. This is one thing I immediately discovered. There was a small island in that area where we used to store our supplies; our traps and snowshoes. Since the highway, that island isn't there anymore. Now to the west side of the road, there is only one direction that the fish come in and that is from the big part of the lake. On the east end of the lake, the fish can't come to this point, because they are blocked where it was closed. Where the road crosses the lake, it isn't the same anymore, there are rocks now, before there were pebbles and sand and fish. This must have been their spawning area. There was evidence of bear presence and a bear trail led to this point. There were visible signs that a bear had fished in this area and now a bear is only occasionally sighted at this point by travelers going through. Talking about fish, their habits are not the same; all kinds of fish made their presence there before the narrows were closed. Since it has been blocked, not all kinds, but the walleye come to that point. Where it was closed, it is quite high to the west side and that is where the walleye come to spawn. Fish from the east side can't come to this point, so the fish are affected by how this site was constructed. I was informed by the Wemindji Band Office that it was thought that the fish were dead; that there are no small fish, only the big fish. I'm not quite certain it is so that the fish are dead. This winter I stayed at my camp located at the east end of the lake. We set our fish net last fall on the west side. I still catch small walleye and yet I'm told the fish are dead. I'm still uncertain of why the Office believes the big fish are dead. During the spring break, I've been there in late May, there is an influx of walleye, right where the road crosses the lake.
...because of the dams, so much is lost. Not one person should think that the destruction we talk about is not true, especially those people who didn't see these destroyed areas with their own eyes. They should go and see the damage so they can say they saw it with their own eyes. They should take a map that shows what the land looked like before the building of the dams. Then they would see how much land has now been flooded. They would see all the water and check where a river used to run. They would check and see what the water level of a river was before the dams and how, now some rivers are dry. I know they would believe how much destruction takes place after a dam has been built. If they build more dams the same destruction will occur in the future.
I wanted to mention the impacts on the Sakami area, my trapline, mainly due to the diversion of the Eastmain River towards Boyd Lake into Sakami Lake... Now I can't hunt in that area anymore and I've been forced to abandon some camp sites in the Sakami area. Even though the Eastmain site is quite a distance away, it still affects that area. And towards the LG-2 area that side is also far away, it still has an impact on our territory.
Q: In the time you've been on your job (Cree Trappers Association employee responsible for local fur collection), have you noticed any changes at all in the quality of furs or the size of the furs or anything like that?A: Not really, just the quantity.
Q: Has that been a gradual decline?
A: Yes, before we used to have dozens of fur and now we'd only get three bundles of fur. Back then we used to have about twenty to twenty-five.Q: Per year, twice a year?A: Usually twice a year.
Q: How many furs are in a bundle?A: About forty pelts of beaver.
Q: What other animals besides the beaver have been affected do you think?
A: The otter, the fishing-eating animals. Not the just animals but the birds are all affected.
Q: What are some of those animals or birds?
A: The ducks and geese and all their offspring. I guess they all have mercury, especially the ones that eat fish.
Q: Are there any fur-bearing animals that eat fish besides the otter?
A: The black bear, there's quite a decline in them. There's less bears today.
Q: Do people notice anything when they harvest the bears; notice anything about their organs and insides that make them wonder about how healthy they are?
A: No, I don't think so.
Q: How many trappers are going out these days?
A: I don't really know, I'd say seventy to seventy-five people. If there's no work in town they go out into the bush.
Q: How much time do most of these people spend out there?
A: Some go out in September and come back before Christmas and go out again in January and then come back to town in March. Others spend their spring in the bush.
Q: What do they do in the spring?
A: Goose hunting because they don't have hunting grounds along the coast. Their traplines are in the bush.
Q: For those trappers who are out there over the winter, from what you know do they trap pretty intensively, like are they spending a lot of time and trying to get a lot of animals?
A: Yes, but the thing is sometimes the weather is not good; like for example, in late fall they don't usually trap early.
Q: Have they had to change their hunting strategies because of all the changes in the animal populations? Do they need to leave more animals now than they used to?
A: Yes.Q: How do they decide how many animals they can take?
A: They don't usually stay in one particular place for a long time. They usually move around a lot (to rotate hunting areas).
Q: They have cabins in different areas?
Q: Are these mostly older men who still do this, or are they young men who go out for the winter?
A: Mostly older men.
Q: How many people who are middle-aged go out on the trapline?
A: About thirty, I guess.
Q: How about young men in their late teens or in their twenties?
A: Not very many.
Q: Are they usually going out with older people?
Q: The older trappers, some of them must be in their sixties or in their seventies; how active can they be on the trapline?
A: I don't really think they trap, or they just trap near their camps. The older trappers are left with the beaver lodges that are easy and closest to reach.
Q: How do they move around the trapline?
A: By skidoo and by walking.
Q: Are they usually out with younger men?
A: Some, but not all of them. Some go out by themselves.
Q: Do women go out with them?
A: Yes, but the women don't usually trap. Just the men.
Q: Do you think that has anything to do with the lower numbers of furs that you see in here, the fact that some of the older men who are out there may not be doing as much trapping while they are out there?
A: No, I don't think so.
Q: Why not?
A: Because of the decline in the beaver and the project, like I said, compared to before, the beaver has declined.
Q: What information do you have that makes you think it's because of the decline in beaver population rather than a decline in the activity of the trappers?
A: I believe it's the decline of the beaver population because some of the trappers want the beaver to come back in different areas, that's why they don't trap so intensively. There's hardly any beavers like they use to be.
Q: Do they have a good idea how many beaver they have on their trapline?
A: Yes, they do.
Q: How do you look at those areas that have been affected, in terms of how productive they were for trapping before the project? Were they productive areas?
A: Yes, very productive. We used to have a lot of fur, right now there's a decline in that.
Q: Do you think the loss of those areas has been a major impact?
Q: How's the population of big game, moose and caribou, these days?
A: In remote areas there is more moose. In areas accessible by road there aren't any because of the sports hunters. Sports hunters are more likely to hunt along the roads. About ten years ago there were hardly any moose in the coastal areas, only inland. Now we have moose along the coast.
Q: Why is that, do you think?
A: It's because of the sports hunting and the hydro lines. I believe the moose comes to the coast line because of the projects and the roads.Q: So the coastal areas are less affected by the projects?
Q: So the moose prefers to be there and there's less pressure from the sport hunters?A: Yes.
Q: One thing that Hydro-Quebec says about the reservoirs and the diversions is that the flooding doesn't take very much of the land, that most of the land is still there untouched and that it shouldn't be such a problem for the Cree. How would you answer that?
A: They are wrong, they are killing the beaver and have eliminated the food the people eat. I have been here all my life that's how I know that. Like for instance that time all those caribou were drowned years ago; that was the Hydro's doing. We were not even aware of it, and a lot of lakes where the beaver used to like to stay are all under water now; we can't even tell exactly where the end of the lake is now. We pretty well know what it was like before the flood from our elders, what they told us it was like before, and what it was like during their time and we know what it is like now, that's how we know if the flood is really affecting the area.Hydro can't be sure about how much damage they've been doing to the land if they want to estimate that damage. But because it is passed from generation to generation that's how I know how things were; how animals were before my time. We know because we listen to our elders; they're the ones that tell us what it was like before.
The land, the area that has been flooded will never again be the same, only the rocks will be there. Everything else is ruined and the sand will be there. The earth will dissolve and the trees will float around. I have flown over where the water is high only last summer. I saw lots of trees washed ashore, lots of them are destroyed, also the earth and the fish. In the flooded rivers where the fish are, where water is very high, all kinds of things are floating around and these destroy the fishes' food. It is also the same for where the lakes were. The earth dissolves into pieces and floats on the water. All the food for the fish is pushed down and covered by the polluted things floating around. Fish feed at the bottom of the lake or river, their food looks like grass. Eventually the fish will starve too. The fish will be found washed ashore. If one was to search for dead fish one would find them along the shores, the ones that sink to the bottom where the dams have been built. The people who want to stop the projects should do a survey of the fish that are washed ashore and where the hydro lines run. These have a bad effect on the fish. The Crees know this, what it does to the fish. The fish are not all strong and healthy. Some fish are weak. The weak fish, just like a person who is weak, the doctor has found a lot of people who are like that (i.e. that are not strong and healthy), some of the fish are just like that.
It's like the caribou there that drowned on the Caniapiscau River. The government says 10,000 caribou drowned. It's not 10,000, it's more than 10,000 caribou that drowned on the Caniapiscau River. But they're only saying 10,000 caribou. And why did the caribou drown on the Caniapiscau River? Because the current is too strong, all the rivers flow all the way down there, including the (diverted) Eastmain River. The current is too strong where the caribou used to cross. They're destroying everything. But they always blame it on Mother Nature. It's not Mother Nature that drowned the caribou; it's Hydro-Quebec. Because the current was too strong. if they didn't divert the rivers to the north the current wouldn't be that strong. They don't want to take the blame, even though it's their own fault. You know, 10,000 caribou is a lot of meat for the Inuit. And that's not the only thing that's going to happen in the future. Especially with the Great Whale project, what's going to happen with the caribou? They need fresh water to survive. Are they going to move somewhere else? George River, Fort Chimo? How are the Inuit going to survive?
When I look at the hydro project in terms of all the development, like the dam itself, the dikes, the roads, and everything else that's connected to the project, it seems to me that it's concentrating on the best parts of the Cree territory or the traplines of Eastmain. For instance, where there was good fishing, you have reservoirs; where there was good beaver area, you have dikes and reservoirs; and you also have transmission lines that affect all kinds of species of other animals. One of the things that I think about a lot is the reproduction of animals within the reservoirs or within the construction sites of Hydro-Quebec; I am sure that trappers and certain people that you talked to have mentioned how well populated in certain different species of animals. I would agree that certain areas, like upstream from the Eastmain River project, was good areas for reproduction of animals, even big game like moose, beaver and marten, muskrat, and so on. These areas within the reservoir represent where nesting of birds and where young animals were born. Not only did we lose the animals when the development happened, we lost the areas where they were born, where they're raised.
When I speak of the traplines, of my trapline or even the ones that are directly affected, I can strongly say and I strongly believe that the population of animals is very low, the population of fish has decreased, hunting is almost like not hunting anymore. You cannot seem to take as much animals as you used to take from this area. It seems like it's very difficult to find the animals, very difficult to locate the different species of animals. Therefore I strongly believe that this hydro development has strongly affected the animal population. It's almost like, hunting is almost like not hunting in this territory or in these traplines today.
Q: I'm wondering what changes were occurring in this area [referring to map] before the diversion; natural changes related to the land rising, changes that have been happening since the past, long before any diversion?
A: It's true that changes were happening before the dams. Like before, where there were no willows, today there are willows everywhere and grasses, long grasses, growing along the shore. Even in the little lakes that we used to have along the shore, the little lakes near the coast, they are all disappearing and are found further inland today. I notice too that there are a lot of little islands coming up that I had never seen before. Sometimes on a little island you can see there would be a little tree growing on it that was not there before.
Q: How quickly do these islands appear?
A: I never really timed them to see how fast the islands were coming up, but the willows are growing very fast; even inside of just one or two summers the willows are there already that were never there before.
Q: Have these changes to the coastal environments led to significant changes in where the geese land and feed?
A: That's the big change here. Where the geese used to be when they were on their way north, all these places that we used to get lots of geese, it's all willows and long grass growing so the geese don't come 'round here as much as they did before.
Q: Have there been many changes in the location of the eel grass beds?
A: Yes, there have been a lot of changes just inside of a few years.
Q: Now is this because of the diversion, or is this because the land has been rising?
A: It's mostly because of the diversion of the river, because the river is very dry today.
Q: Yes, I'm just trying to distinguish between those changes due to the land rising from the more recent changes caused by the diversion of the river. I'm wondering, are there any old stories or legends about the islands or coastline emerging or growing?
A: I think that the area is growing, and besides there is no more water coming into the James Bay area from the inland. Everything is coming out, like little islands and rocks. It's probably the same thing with the human beings; when they are small they grow and they grow tall, and it's probably the same thing with the land.
Q: Are there any specific stories about this growth in the land?
A: No, I don't know any stories, but there are other people in the community who know these stories.
Q: Even on the adjacent rivers, such as the Fishing River, do you notice all these changes there too?
A: Everything there is all dry. But the rivers that connect in other places, like you know, ten or twelve miles on each side of the river there are some small creeks, and maybe they won't be so dry because they connect to other big lakes. And because now that we see it's dry from the first dam, the second one, the EM-1 is going to be even worse. We are worried about that, all of the old people that I go around with, we talk about that all the time and we're worried that it's going to be even worse. Even the James Bay area, the coast is going to get even more dry after the EM-1.
...two years ago somebody killed a couple of moose in Great Whale, and they never had moose up there before. They asked the old people there and they never heard of a moose being up there. I sat on the forestry committee and it's been said that there's hardly any moose in some traplines in Waswanipi, OujÃ©-Bougoumou and Mistissini. They say it's the forestry, clear cutting. We had a tallyman that came to our meeting who said that his trapline was completely clear cut. One time he said that they told him that there would be a little lot around his cabin that they were going to leave. When these people were working through his area there he needed a tree. They told him to stay within his boundary, but he went out and got a log and the forestry company wanted to sue him for that log. When they are off the road a ways, they don't follow the guidelines and cut down to the water. They were supposed to leave some trees along the river. The land has changed so will animals.
With regards to the Agreement when they dammed the La Grande River, south to the Eastmain River; the areas that are most highly affected as a result of this flooding are the areas of Eastmain and Wemindji. All the water that floods Sakami to Opinaca; that water that is there has adverse effects on the lakes and streams between these areas. When a person has seen the land prior to the flooding, I've seen it myself and I know. I knew the area before they flooded the territory and how the water is there and how good the hunting was in those lakes. One time when I was wondering about it, I did not take into consideration Sakami Lake although I knew about the fishing in the lake. I counted all the areas where the largest quantity of fish were. From Opinaca to Boyd lake (D.G.'s trapline), and I did not include Sakami, I counted thirty-seven areas where there was good fishing areas. Just like some areas in the coastal region, not all areas are the same; there are sporadic places where the fish are plentiful, and it was like that when I counted all the possible fishing spots in those lakes. I did not count all those places where people fished because they tried different spots on a certain lake.That's one of the things that I know was totally lost when they increased the water level; those traditional fishing spots are no longer of any use to anyone because of the flooding. They have told us that we cannot fish from those areas and that the people should limit their intake of those fish. These spots are gone and that type of hunting or fishing is also gone. There were different species in those areas, and back in the past I saw that and I knew it was happening. Even in the Chisasibi area, they felt that impact; probably more so. There you would see a lot of non-Natives going fishing, catching the various species of fish and they never said that they would throw away their catch or that they would give it to other people. Now because of the flooding in those areas, they don't fish as much as before since they said that people should not consume the fish that they catch from these areas. That's the way things turned out. But prior to the flooding it was a garden there, where all the species were plentiful. They seemed to grow yearly like a garden.
Q: Could you name some of the thirty-seven fishing spots that you mentioned you counted?
A: In D.G.'s trapline (Boyd Lake), the Cree name is Kaa chiiwaanikaau; I will explain. There are three lakes, large lakes, almost as much water as there is now, but they increased the size of the lakes when they flooded the area. I will name some of the lakes, to the east where the three lakes are. Where Kaa chiiwaanikaau is, the lake is fairly large and there are various places for fishing. There are also islands within the lake -- a lot of them back then. That's where they found these places to the east; there were two large lakes and there were some to the south. The last lake where M's trapline is, that lake there has a large hill and the birds they call ravens, they used to nest there. Kaahkaachuuchii, that was the name of that hill; I never heard the name of that lake. They used the name Kaahkaachuuchii, because they named the hill after the ravens, the lake also took the same name. There is another lake called Minaawaan, out on that lake off-shore there is a point, probably the length of this house, where the birds -- various birds like and ducks and gulls -- used to lay their eggs. That place was called Minaawaan. The southernmost lake is called Uupinikaau. It looks like this, a huge body of water there with some islands and it extends again to another huge body of water. At this point, this spot looks like that point leading out to the bay [refers to the point where Wemindji extends to the coastal waters]. This is where they used to fish. Then you have a series of islands where you pass between them, that's where they named what they now call Uupinikaau. It's small, looks like a mouth of a river, is not very long, and you pass through there. Back in the old days, before we were born, from what I heard about the legend, this was the place some monster waited for them, waited there for them as they paddled by to try and kill them, they would have to paddle by there to pass through. That place was called Shikwaanish, something like someone pointing over someone to kill.
Q: What was the name of that huge body of water on the other side of that point?
A: I did not hear of a name that it was called, where the lake goes to the north part. This was the only place they named. It's not very big. When my father left, when he passed away, my mother remarried, her husband used to hunt in that area, Waatikaawiichaat. Now those people that hunt there, the M.'s from Eastmain; the elders that are still living there are the only ones that go there now. The ones that were there before, my relatives, they are no longer there, they have all passed away. There is one that I didn't mention. I said Uupinikaau, but at this place where they called Aapinikaach, there is a stream that passes between an island and the point. The lake extends to a larger body of water and again it also extends to the north side, there is a big hill there it looks sort of flat, that hill is Minihkwaakinchii. The lake extends to the east, there's a place that looks like a closed-off stream, there's an island there and the body of water there is fairly small, that place is called Waapischaakaau. I cannot fully understand what it means; it could be that the soil is white or light-colored. I tried to understand why they called it that. The soil that's light colored that crumbles when you step on it when it's dried up that's the only way I could understand it because the soil is called Waapiskim or it could be a small point where the lake extends to a large body of water. There at Waapischaakaau the dore or walleye were very plentiful. In the fall, when the lakes started to freeze, we put our fish nets in, while I was still staying with my mother; all winter we would catch walleyes and they were really nice fish. When we say nice or good, we look at the stomach of the fish and if we see a layer of fat, that's what we mean by nice fish. There was a lot of those fish there. That spot there where the island was. I'm not sure if the island is still visible now, it might be totally under water. From what I heard only the trees are above water; but that was a good area.
...Where are the Native people going to go if all of the inland territories are under water? Where are they going to live? Where are they going to hunt? Where are they going to fish? Nobody can fish in the dry lands where there's no water and it's all because the fishing areas on his trapline are flooded. He's also afraid that the fish he catches are contaminated. All of the fish that are in the flooded areas must all have mercury poisoning in their systems by now. How are the Native people going to eat, and their children and great-grandchildren too? How are they going to survive, if we're lucky enough to have the land for a long period of time? How and where are our great-grandchildren going to hunt? People will be prohibited to hunt in the flooded areas. A large area of the land has now been damaged so far and all because of water level rising. The people of Chisasibi have lost a lot of the areas where they used to hunt at the mouth of their rivers, they have a lot of rivers that flow into the Chisasibi River. Like I said this is the area where most of the damage has been done. This is where they were brought up by their grandparents and great-grandparents. Now all of the area has been completely destroyed and the people of Wemindji have been affected by the flooding too. The people of Eastmain have been affected for some time now and they can't get anything from the flooded areas where everything is under water, a lot of things.I saw the areas where the Eastmain people used to fish because I took part in summer inland fishing too. When people used to do some fishing long ago, they caught the sturgeons with their hands and then they left them alone for a while. In the commercial summer inland fishing, the sturgeons that were caught were never consumed by the Native people... the fish were shipped out... the sturgeons were a good catch indeed... The place where the sturgeon fishing took place no longer exists, it's all under water now. The summer fishing areas are becoming extinct now and the Native person is very sorry to see it happen and also feels sorry for the people who are losing business because of this. And maybe the people who used to buy the fish feel sorry too when they hear that the fishing areas no longer exist and that the areas are under the water.
If they continue this the land is going to get worse, much worse in the future. I can't say how much worse it will get or be exactly in the future but I know for sure, it will be hard on the Crees who don't have a job. The Crees who don't have jobs will be hard hit (affected) because they won't be able to hunt, when there will be nothing to hunt for, no furs if more dams are there, and the Crees won't be able to fish. How will they survive, from what? How will they provide for their children? What about the piyaasuuch (birds-fowl), how will they survive? The piyaasuuch will disappear, they will go where it's quiet and they know where to hide. They can hide as they will, and wherever because they can fly anywhere through the sky. The awaashiish (animals) on these lands are the same, the ones that can run or walk fast, they will disappear and go and hide wherever they want to. This is the way the land will be affected, it will have the same effect on the people too. It is the same today and will be the same in the future, the effects will be same. More and more Crees are affected by the hydro dams.