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Gathering renews Cree Confederacy


Joseph Fourre, Windspeaker Contributor, Opaskwayak Cree Nation Manitoba







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From the mountains of British Columbia to James Bay in Quebec, Cree people from all over converged on the small community near The Pas, Manitoba, for the Cree Gathering.

Joe Roan, from Pigeon Lake, Alberta, delivered the opening remarks and prayer.

"I hope this is the place to start something that will get the Cree Nation moving as one," Roan said to the crowd of 125 Elders.

The Elders took up the first part of the gathering. They met for three days trying to come up with a direction for the renewed Cree Confederacy.

They expressed concerns about injustice, poverty and struggles in their community. All across Cree country, the problems were the same.

The Cree Nation was once a strong and powerful nation according to what the Elders say. It was only when government divided them that they lost that unity and strength.

Nelson Scribe is an Elder and former chief of the Norway House First Nation in northern Manitoba. He says with the creation of a Cree Confederacy, they'll be able to speak with one voice.

"It'll be easier to get government to move on our concerns when we talk to them as one. It will also eliminate the provinces from telling each nation different things because we'll be one nation dealing with one government," Scribe said.

Scribe added the Cree Confederacy will return to the largest and once-powerful nation in North America.

"We are powerful. We just don't know it yet," Scribe said.

The Elders passed a resolution giving the chiefs direction in what they thought would be good for the Cree.

In it, the Elders call for the confederacy to promote, protect, maintain and strengthen their rights as a united body.

It also calls for the Cree Nation to respect, honor and maintain their beliefs in the creator and oral traditions of the Elders, who passed laws from generation to generation.

With the seed firmly planted for the reunification of the Cree Nation, the Chiefs met to solidify their support for the concept.

The chiefs did not come up with a declaration for the Confederacy, but all agreed this process was long overdue and it would be the Cree who solve the problems of the Cree.

Allan Ross is a chief from Norway House First Nation. He said the Cree have to look at how the blind people solved their problems.

"It took a blind man named Braille to give the blind some sort of vision. He created the Braille alphabet to help the blind to read. He did this because he understood what it meant to a blind person, because he was blind himself," Ross said.

"Let us learn from the blind people's experience and let them (blind people) help us see our (Cree) new vision," Ross said.

This new vision, according to the chiefs, includes a renewed strength in dealing with common issues.

Matthew Coon Come is the Grand Chief of the James Bay Cree. He said the James Bay Cree are only a small part of the Cree Nation.

"Can you imagine if we all got together collectively and approached the federal and provincial governments together speaking with one voice? I think we can go a long way," Coon Come said.

There is a common thread in the things that are happening to the Cree that are affecting their way of life.

"It's important we unite and take this on a collective approach," Coon Come said.

With a Quebec election coming up and separatism a big issue for the James Bay Cree, many chiefs feel the creation of the Confederacy will allow the Cree Nation to support the Cree in Quebec and any other part of North America.

The challenge that lies before the Cree Nation is enormous, Coon Come said. They have to try and find a way to pool their human and financial resources and see how they can work together.

"If we do this, great things can happen. Because there have been great leaders before us, representing a great nation," Coon Come said.