The Grand Council of the Crees

Moving Forward Towards Governance

Moving Forward Towards Governance

Posted: 2005-12-23

In the past few months much has been accomplished in the move to realize our goal. We wish to have a more central role in the governance of the funds and structures which provide support for the institutions and organizations within our communities and Nation. Each step we take with respect to federal negotiations is a step forward, whether it is in agreement or in a process of clarification of our objectives and rights. We are establishing the parameters of a new relationship which will build upon the promises and commitments of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. It has been our journey for the past 30 years to implement the provisions that three decades ago our people deemed to be vital or important for our Nation. We are committed to this path, and in the process wish to provide greater certainty to services and funds needed to support our communities and the Nation as a whole. So in the past few months, I have concentrated on the issues identified as being important to the future of our people, and hoped that would raise the standards of education, health, and living within Eeyou Istchee. In the past few weeks, the upcoming federal election has impacted our federal negotiations schedule to some extent, however our relations continue to grow.

On governance and accessibility, I have had the pleasure of attending a community Council meeting in the past month. It was an important chance for me, to interact with local leadership, but also to come to the community as Grand Chief to listen. There were many concerns raised during the discussions which helped me understand the issues and priorities of the particular community. The benefits of these community visits, and of taking the time to sit with the local Council, are significant because this will provide me with insight into the needs of each community. I also met with the Elders? Council and the Regional Youth Council leadership to discuss their concerns and desire to be more involved in issues which affect not only their respective interests but also to establish a spirit of cooperation to work together in the future on issues impacting the Cree Nation as a whole.

When we speak of education, we are always cognizant of the fact that in the Cree world, this has meant the teaching of perhaps two types of knowledge systems to our children. These children stand out in a nation of two strong national identities. In the Cree system, they are being taught with an appreciation and understanding of three distinct cultures? Canadian, Quebecoise and Cree. We hope to foster good relations with these neighbours, and also provide our children with opportunities to excel in any of these three societies. To this end, the Cree School Board and local leadership have been working together to decide on the proper balancing of traditional and contemporary knowledge systems for a particular community?s education system. It was my pleasure to attend the first Cree School Board symposium on education in the last ten years. The event was an opportunity for many participants to share experiences, give direction to the Cree School Board on where improvements could be made to enhance the quality of education, and to facilitate the creation of networks of people working to make a difference.

There are a number of emerging business partnerships in the Cree Nation in the last few years. These exist because Cree and non-native people and organizations are interested in working together in the Cree Nation/Abitibi-Temiscamingue region. Opportunities exist for Cree entities and people to build partnerships of mutual benefit and respect with non-Cree organizations and people to engage in business or development activities in our territories. The success of these types of business exchanges includes the development of capacity and know-how in the communities and region. The goal is not only to create a local and regional economy through initiatives and partnerships, but to build a sustainable and healthy environment for growth. It is a part of our wish to continue to establish partnerships with Quebec, and the Quebec business community. To this end, the Grand Council has been proceeding with meetings and consultations on the potential of developing wind energy projects in Eeyou Istchee.

It is encouraging to see the steps we have taken already towards greater control of the supporting mechanisms needed for a stronger form of Cree governance. We have taken strides in some instances, and in others, are taking the time to ensure our rights and interests are properly respected. We are looking forward to the development of a written Constitution that is acceptable to the Eeyou/Eenou. A Cree Constitution defines our relationship with other governments, First Nations, and puts us on equal standing with other peoples with whom we have developed relationships with throughout our history.