The Grand Council of the Crees

Grand Chief Dr. Ted Moses On the Occasion of the Graduation Of the First 10 Graduates of the Hydro Quebec ? Cree Program for the Training of Cree Candidates in the Operation of Hydro Electric Facilities

Grand Chief Dr. Ted Moses On the Occasion of the Graduation Of the First 10 Graduates of the Hydro Quebec ? Cree Program for the Training of Cree Candidates in the Operation of Hydro Electric Facilities

Posted: 2005-06-03

Rouyn Noranda

It is a pleasure to be here on this important occasion and I thank the Centre Polym?tier de la Commission Scolaire Rouyn-Noranda for the invitation to participate in the ceremony today. I also salute our friends from Hydro Quebec for coming to this important occasion and for their continued support in our quest for equitable participation of the Cree People in the development of the James Bay Territory, or Eeyou Istchee, as we know it. 

When the Crees signed the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975 there were many in our population who were happy that we were at last finding a way to develop our communities and also to open the door to new opportunities and other ways to live from Eeyou Istchee than the traditional means of hunting, fishing and trapping. Up until that point, aboriginal peoples in Canada had been pushed aside so that colonists from Europe could displace them and develop the economic potential of their lands. Sequestered on reserves these people born on the land were cut off from it, from the very source that had given them sustenance, spirit and a way of life. 

Today we are here to celebrate the graduation of 10 Cree students who are on their way to taking jobs in the operation of hydroelectric dams. This is an important occasion as these 10 graduates are going to take part in the benefits of developing the resources of their ancestral lands. They will help to operate the dams built by Hydro Quebec on the Territory.
I should not say hydroelectric dams, but powerhouses and dams that are among the most sophisticated in the world. These are dams that provide one-half of the electricity of Quebec and that provide for the needs of American cities and towns. These are also the dams that have defined a new way of making a living on Eeyou Istchee.

In 1975 there were elders alive at that time who had seen the end of the 19th century. They grew up in the bush and they knew that life on the land was not easy. They made observations in 1975 that are still relevant today. The rivers they said were made in such a way that not only provided for the traditional life of the Cree People but that also provided for the new technology, the hydroelectricity that we see today. These were people who had known the time that they referred to as ?Kaachitstumakch? - the time of poverty that hit our land in the 1930?s. They were glad that the future of their children and grandchildren was to be assured by the addition of new alternative ways of living from the land.

This is why the Cree People celebrate today. We have 10 graduates of a program that will fit them to work on the management of the energy that their ancestral lands now produce. A fundamental principle of our way of life is the principle of sharing. Through hydroelectric development, we share the resources of the land with Quebecers and with the rest of the world. 

It is true that after we signed the James Bay Agreement in 1975 that we found our future progress blocked by governments that did not recognize the fact that we, the Crees, wanted to find a way to benefit from development. It took 20 years of court actions and bickering over development for the Premier of Quebec to realize what we were after. We, just the same as Quebecers, want jobs and benefits from development. It is not only this however, we want to participate in Quebec not just like everyone else, but as the Cree Nation, with a proud history and a unique language, culture and way of life.

Today, the 10 graduates of the program for hydro technicians attest to our determination to take on the challenges that we must undertake to participate in the development of the territory. I congratulate all of you for your effort and personal commitment to your goals and visions of the future. 

The real lessons of our past are the lessons of Cree Culture and its unique view of the world. Included in this are also the universal truths, the values of honesty, perseverance, humility and commitment. These are of course also shared with other cultures of the world. They are the most important values that you can take into the future. If you take on the task of working for Hydro Quebec, then you must commit to do this in the best way that you know how and with the faith and commitment that your people taught you. 

On behalf of the Cree People I congratulate you and wish all of you the best of luck in the future. 

The graduates are: 

1. Ronald Stephen
2. Brian Sealhunter
3. Eric Grondin
4. Alain Fireman
5. Frankie Tapiatic
6. Gordon Cookish
7. Jason Loon
8. David Pachano
9. Russel Blackned
10. Lesley Mattawashish

You come from all over the Cree Lands. Finally, the promise of government and of Hydro Quebec that was made under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement is being fulfilled with the participation of the Cree People in the development and in the long-term benefits of development on our lands. 

I look forward to seeing others follow in your footsteps. You are the trail blazers. Eyogun chiiwaw emeskinacheyek. Ishinagon kowiiskw cheniiganteyekw wesin idawich kotikotch ewiimitemagoyekw. As the leaders, you must lead in the right direction as there are many others back home with their futures committed to your successes. 

Thank you for your efforts and may you all find fulfillment in your chosen professions.

Meegwetch, Merci Beaucoups, Thank You