The Grand Council of the Crees

George Wapachee responds to the Montreal Gazette's article, "A river runs through it: Water and Power: Politics of a Deal", printed August 13th, 2005

George Wapachee responds to the Montreal Gazette's article, "A river runs through it: Water and Power: Politics of a Deal", printed August 13th, 2005

Posted: 2005-08-16

This Document is in PDF Format View the Montreal Gazette's article, "A river runs through it – Water and power: Politics of a deal" by Alex Roslin, printed August 13, 2005.

This Document is in PDF Format View the signed copy of George Wapachee's letter to the editor of the Montreal Gazette

Letter to the Editor of the Gazette Newspaper
August 16, 2005
Dear Sir:

I am writing in regard to your article on Saturday, August 13 entitled "Water and Power: Politics of a Deal". I believe that the article characterizes the situation unfairly. It falsely suggests that by signing the Paix des Braves, Ted Moses has ushered in a wave of suicides and drug abuse.

Perhaps it is the constant gloom and doom messages from the critics of the Paix des Braves that have more to do with the loss of hope amongst certain youth. The Cree youth have new opportmties and hope in the Paix des Braves. Progress in the Cree communities has been astounding since the Paix des Brave. Just in my community of Nemaska, we have a new recreation center with a swimming pool and new housing for the young people. How long would it have taken to get all of that without the new agreement?

We did experience a couple of suicides of young people in my community in early 1990, this took place long before Paix des Braves and EM1 but we dealth with it in our own fashion by developing a Community Wellness Program and so far it has worked.

Your article repeats the fallacious arguments set out in the "One More River" film. In the article, Roger Orr is quoted commenting on the worsening drug situation and complaining that he had to close his restaurant because of the competition with the higher wages offered workers at the EM1 Construction site. In fact Mr. Orr closed his pool-hall, video arcade, and other ventures before the EM1 Project started construction, after a long series of personnel problems in managing it. The local Band government even went to the extent of supporting his private ventures by providing him with a building at no cost. But then, he started biting the hand that feeds them. There were many in Nemaska glad to see it close because it was seen by some community members as a generator of the very type of social problems he complains of in the article.

Yes, there are social problems in the Cree communities. Some Cree children have been caught sniffing gasoline since at least the 1970's. Such problems continue and are in fact likely a result of rapid culture change, of which the EM1 dam is a contributor, along with forestry, mining and the construction of the Cree communities themselves. I might add that part of this change is the growing role that the media has in Cree elections. We have never slid to the level of misery of other aboriginal communities because we have been dealing with these social issues in a more successful manner than most others in Canada, many of whom have not been faced with hydro, development.

What choice do we have but to manage the impacts of this change? In the film One More River it is suggested that going back to the land is the solution. Yes, many find solutions in the land and in tradition, but many do not. There are twice as many Crees now as there were in 1975 and hunting, fishing and trapping that were once 100% of the Cree economy are now at most, 3% of (it in monetary terms. Crees want jobs and the ones that they get at Hydro Quebec are not all short term. We have approximately 60 Crees in a program to train dam operators and we already have some dozen graduates.

Grand Chief Moses has not only fought for funding for the construction of houses, recreational and fitness centers, he has brought in health and social services to deal with the problems of diabetes, heart disease, and the social fictions of those abused in residential schools. He has provided leadership where his critics offer only dead-ends.

The critics of the Paix des Braves and those in the Cree media seem to want the Cree Nation to be in the same dire situation as the Aboriginal Peoples in Northern Ontario.

You would be well advised in the future to seek more balanced views of the situation in the Cree commumty than what was provided in your article. By the way, the article suggests that there are three candidates in the election for Grand Chief, in fact there are four: Kenny Blacksmith, Paul Gull, Ted Moses and Matthew Mukash.


George Wapachee

Cree Nation of Nemaska
Address: George Wapachee
10 Otter Trail
Nemaska, Quebec JOY 3B0
Home Telephone # 819-673-25 14
Cell Phone # 819-865-7616