The Grand Council of the Crees

Inauguration Speech by Grand Chief Matthew Mukash, Delivered at Chisasibi, Quebec

Inauguration Speech by Grand Chief Matthew Mukash, Delivered at Chisasibi, Quebec

Posted: 2005-10-19

Watchia! Kwe Kwe! Welcome members of the Eeyou-Eenou Nation, and distinguished guests. First of all, I would like to thank Tseymanitou, our Great Creator, for the life we received this day and the blessings to be able to come together and gather at this very special and historic event.

It is truly a great honor to be standing here before you as the new Grand Chief of the Eeyou Istchee. My family and I are deeply humbled and honored to be part of today's special event. I take this time to thank all of you present here today, including those tuning in from other communities and you for joining us.

I must thank Chief Abraham Rupert and his council for proposing that this gathering take place in the community of Chisasibi. With more than 1300 people voting in Chisasibi and almost 6000 people voting in total, our Nation should be proud of itself for the record turnout in this year's elections. The message is clear: the Cree Nation is taking an active role in shaping our future. I acknowledge all of the candidates who ran for the office of Grand Chief and for Deputy Grand Chief. I would also like to take this time to thank my wife Danielle, my children, grand children and all the people that have come into our lives, for their love and support and to all of you who have supported and placed your trust in me over the past years, especially in this election. To my campaign team, the organizers and workers of this event, thank you all.

Tonight, as we look forward to begin our work towards a Common Vision and goals, and as we prepare ourselves to face the challenges that lie ahead, we should take a brief look at our Nations remarkable past and achievements, acknowledge our present challenges, and explore the prospect of our future.

November 11, 2005 will mark the 30th Anniversary since the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Thirty years ago, the Cree Leaders took a bold step and signed an Agreement that affected the course of our history, our lives, our relationship to the land and has brought our Nation to its present path.

We used the JBNQA to create entities to service our Nation in areas such as health and education. Although thirty years of organizing, implementing and managing our own affairs was not easy, it did contribute to our Nation's international recognition in the advancement of indigenous rights. It also produced great leaders that offered part of their lives to contribute to our society. We acknowledge the leaders responsible for all of our achievements. It is through their efforts that the world took notice. We take this time to say thank you!!!

For a number of years, some of us have expressed our objection to the way in which the Paix Des Braves Agreement was negotiated and presented to the Cree Nation for approval. We must ensure that in the future there is more time to consider such agreements and more dialogue about the content before they are ratified. Nevertheless, we should recognize and acknowledge the efforts made by former Grand Chief Ted Moses, as with Matthew Coon Come and Billy Diamond before him, they all made important personal sacrifices for the betterment of the Cree Nation.

Our relationship to Creation is what has sustained us for thousands of years. This relationship came with numerous responsibilities and obligations. In 2005, the respect and honor of this relationship is no less than what it was since time immemorial. As we strive to work together to implement Paix des Braves, we will honor this relationship while carefully assessing the impacts of our decisions and promoting cleaner alternative and renewable sources to energy, such as wind, solar and biofuel (fuel derived from biomass). Eeyou Istchee has wind potential to put Quebec, Canada and the Cree Nation as one of the top wind energy producers in the world.

As we take a bold step forward and prepare for a new journey, we have an obligation to take stock of the hopes and dreams of our youth, and the welfare of our land and waters. We must do our best to avoid decisions that may jeopardize our children and grandchildren's inheritance. In our history, the time comes to turn the page and begin a new chapter. The pages are blank: the future is ready to be written down and we will be the authors. We must put behind the issues that have divided us. It is time to focus on common interests that promote peace and unity.

Within the next four years we must strengthen the Cree Nation. Cree Nation Building will only be complete once we enact a Cree Constitution that defines our nationhood, membership, and establishes an acceptable working relationship with Quebec and Canada as equal partners in our development. We must promote the inclusion of Washaw Sibi and MoCreebec and other Crees living outside of Eeyou Istchee.

A Nation is strong when it takes care of its own. The Cree Health Board and Social Services must continue to effectively implement the new health agreement with Quebec for the benefit of all Crees.

Women's contribution in the Cree Nation is evolving in new areas. Over the years, they have taken various leadership positions and helped to shape the political, social, economic, domestic and artistic landscapes of Eeyou Istchee. Their role and involvement in our society is invaluable.

I lost my mother at a young age and my sisters and aunts took on her role. This experience validates my belief that nurturing is essential to gain balance in our lives, and that no child should be without it. The statistics of Youth Protection in Eeyou Istchee show that this is an area we need to address together. We have work to do for our children!

Pursuing education opens doors to innovation ensuring a diverse and self-sustaining economy and society. The Cree School Board along with the Cree Human Resources Development must continue to do everything to strengthen Cree education, while providing the means for Cree youth to realize their potential and desired careers. Education is imperative.

Our knowledge is inherited and the inclusion of the elders and the Cree trappers in the decision making process is vital to our society. The Cree Nation must continue to broaden the role of the Regional Elder's Council for the protection of our values and principles. The Cree trappers also need our full support so that they can continue their role as guardians of the land.

The Ouje Bougoumou contamination issue must be treated with utmost urgency. Not enough has been done to proceed with the clean up of the environmental problems created by past mining operations in Ouj? Bougoumou territory. The extent of the damages already caused needs to be clearly identified. The studies that have been done to date both by Quebec and by the joint Cree-Quebec efforts have been slow and have not answered the fears of the people of Ouj? Bougoumou. We look for cooperation from Quebec and Canada to deal with this issue. This is an issue that can create tangible economic benefits and new employment opportunities.

We now have a greater capacity to strengthen our rights and promote our interests. We must use our abilities to move ahead and continue building our Nation. I have full confidence in the Cree Nation and I count on the staff of the Grand Council - Cree Regional Authority for their support.

The election of Ashley Iserhoff as Deputy Grand Chief is a clear example that the Cree Nation is prepared for the next generation of leaders. The voice of the youth is essential in the development of our Government. I congratulate him and will be counting on Ashley to provide an invaluable input in the work that lies ahead.

I will work with Quebec to implement the spirit of the Paix des Braves. I will also work with Canada, to promote cooperative solutions to our respective problems and reconciliation of our plans for the future.

As the son of Late John and Maggie Mukash, I was born out on the Land and raised with values and principles that continue to sustain me in every role I have taken on this journey. My experience out on the land has left me feeling very fortunate, I see now that it has greatly contributed my strong sense of personal and cultural identity. The teachings of our ancestors are the foundation of our strength. As Grand Chief, I strongly encourage our nation to pursue Traditional Knowledge. History has shown that maintaining a strong cultural identity is the key to survival. You and I have the obligation to maintain it. We owe it to our future generations!

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your kind attention this evening.
Meegwetch! Thank You! Merci Beaucoup!