The Grand Council of the Crees

Welcoming Remarks of Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff for the Screening of "Together We Stand Firm"

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Posted: 2011-02-03

Wachiya!  On behalf of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), the Cree Chiefs and all the Crees of Eeyou Istchee, let me welcome you to this first public screening of the Cree film, “Together We Stand Firm”.  I would like to thank you all for accepting our invitation to join us for this very special evening.

The idea for this film came from Robert Kanatewat, the former Chief of the Cree Nation of Chisasibi, or Fort George as it was known in the early 1970’s.  Robert was one of the Cree plaintiffs in the legal proceedings to halt the James Bay Hydroelectric Project and to protect the Crees’ rights and way of life.  The judgement that resulted from these proceedings bears his name. 

It is around 40 years since the James Bay Project was announced.  Thirty-five years have passed since the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement was signed.  More than a generation of Crees have grown up since these landmark events.  Some do not have any personal memory of these events.  Robert wanted them and future generations of the Crees to know what happened in the 1970’s:  the traditional way of life of the Crees, the conditions in the Cree communities, the start of the La Grande Project and the development of the Crees’ political organization in the struggle to protect their rights and way of life.

Tonight, we will share the first part of this story together.  The film does not take an ideological stand on the events.  Instead, it lets the participants in those events, former Grand Chief Late Dr. Billy Diamond,

Robert Kanatewat, Dr. Ted Moses, Dr. Philip Awashish, Late Smally Petawabano, James O’Reilly and John Ciaccia, to name just a few, tell the story as they lived it.

The film starts out by setting the context:  the Crees are in the bush, hearing about the “Project of the Century” on the radio.  Old film clips show the excitement in the air in Québec as the “Quiet Revolution” takes hold of the imagination of Québecers.

The film shows the attachment of the Crees to their traditional way of life.  It also shows their pragmatism in facing up to the challenge of defining new ways of life that would preserve the traditional ways while opening doors to new opportunities.

This is a film about an Agreement, the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement of 1975.  This was the first modern land claim treaty in Canada.  It set the pattern for all the aboriginal land treaties that have followed.  It was, and remains, an extraordinary achievement.  The film tells the story of the Agreement, one that sought to create enduring relations among four peoples: Canadians, Québecers, Inuit and Crees.

This is the first of several films that will document the story of the Crees during and after the James Bay Hydro-Electric Project and James Bay Agreement.  It sets the stage for the films to follow.  The second will focus on the implementation of the Agreement, the third will speak to future directions and the fourth will be about the redefinition and renewal of relations among our peoples.

You will find a copy of this first film (as well as the issue of Destinations magazine dedicated to the  former Grand Chief Late Dr. Billy Diamond) in the package that each of you will be given this evening.

So, without further ado, let us get on with the film.  I think that you will find it riveting.  Enjoy your evening!