Chief Daisy House
It has been quite a challenging year to say the least for everyone all over the world amid the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, but as the saying goes, “This too shall pass.” Our Elders and our ancestors have always reminded us of the importance of preserving no matter what comes our way as they are examples of where we came from, where we are now and where we want to go as people and as a Nation.
The Cree Nation has indeed come a long way as we recently celebrated on November 11, 2020, the 45th Anniversary of the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) and we have far to go yet. Chisasibi is not any different in that respect. Many of our entities, community organizations and residents have all come together to provide the best possible health care and community services, and local or regional events and celebrations, even amid the pandemic.
We can all look back and say that we have adapted, evolved and are able to think outside the box even after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. We are extremely happy to hear that vaccinations have begun all over the world. It is cause for celebration, but we must also not forget the tremendous loss for many the world over. Our thoughts and prayers are with those during these unprecedented times. As our Elders often remind us, we must not allow our losses whatever they may be to stop us from achieving whatever we set out to do. “If you have discipline, drive, and determination, nothing is impossible.”
The following are some of the highlights for Chisasibi for 2020:
- Local Science Fair in February.
- Community Spirit Month activities for the month of March.
- Chisasibi held our first-ever Drive-In Outdoor Concert on July 26. This was our first event we ran for the community during the summer. We had two local bands perform: Fort George Rockers and Cree Rising. It was held at the High Ground park.
- We created a Facebook Private Group page – Social Distancing in Chisasibi for our community members as a way of entertaining and socializing during quarantine. It was our way of socializing and keeping in touch as a community without getting together in person. On this page we have had live concerts by Terri Anne Strongarm, Chelsie Young, Paul Napash; a comedy show by Don Burnstick; a live drive-in concert; square-dance competitions; live yoga, cardio dance and meditation; teachers (from both schools) prepared videos of activities for the children to continue learning while in quarantine; a Virtual Blanket Exhibition; online workshops – Changing the Culture of Violence with Don Burnstick; and a variety of fun activities – a photo hunt, contests, etc.
- Chisasibi celebrated 39 years August 18 with a drive-thru barbecue and outdoor concert.
- We had a drive-thru Grade 6 graduation in August.
- We celebrated our annual gathering on Fort George Island at the end of August.
- Inauguration of newly elected Chief Daisy House, Deputy Chief Paula Napash and 11 Councillors on September 11.
- On September 19, James Bay Eeyou School and the community celebrated the graduation of 71 Secondary 5 graduates.
- We hosted an online and on regional radio Roundtable on Higher Education – Cegep Project broadcast jointly with the Cree School Board on September 30.
- Grieving workshops organized by Brighter Futures.
- On November 11 we had a nice visit from caribou who came across the river to send their greetings before leaving again. It was a welcome and rare visit. How fitting on Remembrance Day and on the 45th anniversary of the signing of the JBNQA.
- The inauguration of Mr. Bertie Wapachee as Chair of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay on November 27.
- In December we held a virtual Chisasibi Arts & Crafts Sale. Our local artists sold their crafts via Facebook instead of at the auditorium or Commercial Centre.
- James Bay Eeyou School Secondary 4 & 5 Virtual Orientation and in-person local presentations.
- 100 km Challenge (Run Chisasibi).
- Virtual School Christmas Concert
- Community Christmas Parade
- Outdoor Dance Competition
- Outdoor Princess Pageant
- Car Rallies
- Radio Bingos started again
- Clown Night (Halloween)
We had many firsts amid the pandemic. We had online learning for many of the students, virtual Council meetings, virtual local and regional general meetings, new grocery delivery services. Many spent more time at their camps such as Louie Rene Kanatewat, who was able to spend 150 days with his whole family. Many families continue to spend time on their traplines learning the ways of our ancestors and passing on the Cree knowledge and teachings.
On behalf of the Cree Nation of Chisasibi and Council, we wish to extend our sincere thank you to all the health care professionals, front line workers, local and regional leadership for all their hard work in helping to keep our communities informed and safe amid the pandemic.
Merry Christmas and a prosperous and safe New Year to one and all!
Chief Curtis Bosum
Greetings to everyone in the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee!
For the community of Ouje-Bougoumou, as for the entire Cree Nation, our greatest preoccupation, and our greatest challenge has been in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
We have been challenged as we have rarely been in our history to protect our community members, and our Nation, from the spread of the virus into our communities. We realized very early on that if the virus were to take hold in any of our communities it could spread quickly and uncontrollably and have devastating consequences for the health of our people.
We are culturally very close and close-knit and our close connections through our extended families are part of who we are. At the same time, in the context of our community life where all our communities are experiencing housing shortages and over-crowding, we knew that we would be particularly vulnerable to the rapid spread of the virus if it were to appear in our community.
So, in concert with the Cree Nation Government, our Public Health Department of the Cree Health Board, the Cree School Board, as well as other Cree entities, we worked together to come up with the recommendations and the laws that we could enforce locally to make sure that our community remained safe and that our people remained healthy.
Ouje-Bougoumou wishes to express its gratitude to the Cree Nation Government for taking the initiative to bring all Cree entities to together with our communities to develop our own approaches to this pandemic in a way that reflects our own realities and our own circumstances, even if that has meant not adopting the measures that have been developed for Quebec generally.
It took wisdom and courage on the part of the Cree Nation to do it right, and that has worked for us all. I am proud that collectively we have acted like a Nation – we have identified a crisis, reacted responsibly, and secured the support of our people to do their share in getting us all through this crisis safely.
At some point very soon, the vaccines that will further protect us from the Covid-19 virus will arrive and we will be able to resume some form of normalcy. Projects that have needed to be put on hold will resume, our normal interactions among one another will return, and we will need to ensure that issues, projects and initiatives that have needed to be postponed will be relaunched.
Looking forward to that post-pandemic time, I see the possibility of a quite a bit of dynamic activity in our community as we try to make up for those postponed initiatives. I look forward to the latter half of 2021 when we can re-focus our energies on implementing these projects and take on new ones – all of which will continue to enhance the quality of life in our community.
I must express my unending gratitude to the people of Ouje-Bougoumou who have listened to our Cree leadership – both at the national and local levels – and who have complied with the precautionary measures and laws that have been developed over the course of this pandemic. By taking this situation seriously, and following what has been asked of them, our people have made an enormous contribution to the safety and the health of our entire community.
This has been a particularly challenging time for our people in view of our proximity to the towns of Chibougamau and Chapais, where precautionary measures were different from those developed for the Cree communities. Our people showed their faith in the Cree leadership to work on their behalf and to develop the approaches that work for our Cree communities.
This last year has been another test of the unity of the Cree Nation, and we have met that challenge as we always do – with wisdom, understanding and respect for one another knowing that when we place the health of our people as our highest priority, we are always doing the right thing.
I would like to extend my best wishes to the members of the Ouje-Bougoumou Cree Nation, to the other Cree First Nations of Eeyou Istchee, and to all our friends and colleagues beyond for a New Year filled with joy, with eager anticipation of a return to normalcy, with a bit of patience to continue to follow the precautionary measures until the vaccines arrive, and above all, with health.
Deputy Grand Chief
I would like to express my thanks to the members of the Cree Nation who have worked with and supported us in one of the most challenging times. 2020 has had significant impacts on every part of our lives – it has completely changed the way we worked, communicated with each other and most significantly had an impact on our families connecting.
The work of our community members and local members has been the key to the success of keeping Covid-19 out of our local communities and protecting our nation as a whole. I would like to express my appreciation for the frontline workers and essential service workers who continued to show up and serve the Cree Nation.
One of the most significant files this year from my office was the announcement of the protected areas network. This initial step in reaching the 20% targets was a key milestone and would not have been possible without the knowledge and wisdom of our Cree tallymen, land users and those that have shared with us directly and in consultations essential information relating to the Cree territory and wildlife. I would like to thank the technical members that have continuously worked with the Cree Nation Government staff to ensure that their input was reflected in a protected areas network that targeted sustainable Cree driven conservation and protection of wildlife and their habitat.
I also express my personal thanks to our protected areas coordinator at the CNG, Chantal Tetreault, who has successfully obtained funding, built a team and continued to work in this file during these challenging times. It was truly an honour to learn the goals of the protection measures for each community. I continue to look forward to working with you on this file as we embark on consultation processes and gathering input in the final study phases of this project. There is still a lot more work to be done and I look forward to hopefully seeing eeyouch in person in these next phases.
2020 has also been one of the most challenging years as a leader. My concern for the safety and health of our members was very high and I am so pleased with all the efforts carried out to ensure the highest level of protection in our nation. This has also been one of the loneliest years for me as travel restrictions and protocols have prevented my ability to participate in many community events. I want to express my thanks to the communities that receive me for the events that I was able to attend.
The highlight of my year was the Cree graduations and seeing a high number of graduates accepting their diplomas. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work and effort of our Cree postsecondary students who faced many challenges this semester. Some of the students travelled and worked from areas of risk and attended in class sessions while others participated online through distance learning and I believe that each of these were extremely challenging.
I would like to thank every student who committed themselves to having a successful term despite the many challenges they faced. I would also like to congratulate you on overcoming one of the most difficult semesters in your academic career. I am extremely proud of you. I truly believe that the work of each student will contribute to a stronger future for the Cree Nation. Your effort and work are highly valued.
This year has been sadly marked by the loss of many members of the Cree Nation and I wish to express my deepest sympathies to those that will be celebrating the holidays without a loved one present. My own family has been personally marked by the tragic loss of my late father-in-law George Masty in a battle to cancer and Covid-19. I will continue to keep our members in my prayers.
I say thank you to all Cree Nation Government staff and administrators who continued to provide service throughout the duration of the pandemic. I am extremely pleased to know that you will be taking a longer break during this holiday and I wish you all the best during this Christmas season.
Lastly, I thank the Grand Chief, the Chiefs and council board representatives who have continued to attend our sessions and help govern our nation in making some very challenging and creative decisions to keep things moving forward.
I wish every single member of Eeyou Istchee a Merry Christmas and health and happiness in the New Year. I look forward to what 2021 will bring for us.
Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay
2020 was a challenging year for the CBHSSJB, as the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world. As of December 15, there were 17 cases among residents of Eeyou Istchee, including one death. Three Elders who were living in long-term care in Montreal also passed away.
The Cree Health Board is proud of its role in preventing community transmission of the virus in our communities. The cases that occurred were quickly isolated and contact-traced. There was an unprecedented level of collaboration between regional and local entities, businesses and community partners to protect Eeyou Istchee from Covid-19. Now that safe and effective vaccines are becoming available, Public Health and other departments are working through the holidays to plan the upcoming vaccination campaign. To stop the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important that all of us act to reduce our chances of being exposed to the virus in the first place and reduce the risk of spreading it to others.
In November, following a run-off election, the organization said goodbye to Bella M. Petawabano, Chairperson for the last eight years, and welcomed incoming Chairperson Bertie Wapachee. Mr. Wapachee knows the organization well as he was Chairperson from 1999-2003. He hit the ground running, holding meetings with CBHSSJB staff and partners, and chairing the December meeting of the Board of Directors.
In spite of the challenges due to the pandemic, the CBHSSJB celebrated many achievements in 2020, including:
- Inauguration of the new Youth Healing Centre for Eeyou Istchee in Mistissini
- Work on capital projects including new Community Miyupimaatisiiuun Centres (CMCs) in Waskaganish, Ouje-Bougoumou and Whapmagoostui, Chisasibi Birthing Home, Land-based Healing, Elders’ Homes and housing, and the 52-bed Regional Health Centre in Chisasibi, which will replace the current Chisasibi Regional Hospital.
- Graduation of 25 employees with Certificate or Diploma in Health and Social Services Management at McGill University, as part of the Indigenous Succession Program.
- Collaboration with the Cree School Board on direct-to-employment training programs.
- Work with the Canadian Red Cross to set up a temporary Elders’ Home in Chisasibi and develop mobile field hospital capability.
- Launch of the new Creehealth.org website.
- Improvements at Espresso Hotel including a new valet service and improved meal service.
- Continued expansion of home hemodialysis services.
- Pan-Canadian award for patient safety from Salus Global for Midwifery services.
- Launch of the 24/7 Wiichiwaauwin Helpline for mental health support: 1-833-632-4357
- Ongoing work with the Quebec government to update and improve health and social services legislation.
- Signing of a new agreement with the Nishiiyuu Council of Elders (NCOE).
We wish the Nation’s staff and readers a safe and peaceful holiday season.