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Looking Back at the Year 2023 in the Cree Nation 

BY Patrick Quinn Feb 26, 2024

As we speed along in 2024, the Nation looks back at an eventful 2023 to commemorate the impressive progress of the Cree Nation and highlight other major Indigenous stories of the year. Along with historic achievements across Eeyou Istchee, last summer saw the region’s most catastrophic wildfires ever. Let’s hope that story isn’t repeated this year.


Seven families in Ouje-Bougoumou celebrated historic achievement of becoming the community’s first official homeowners on January 24.

In one of the highest profile cases of Indigenous identity appropriation, former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was stripped of honourary degrees and removed from the Order of Canada. Controversy later followed similar allegations against beloved musician Buffy Sainte-Marie. 


Vanessa Snowboy presents at Dialogue for Life conference in Montreal alongside workshops, healing sessions. 

Clothing designer Scott Wabano makes a big splash at New York Fashion Week after recently co-creating Two Spirits of Eeyou Istchee organization with Geraldine Shecapio and Jomarie Einish. 

Cree riders participate in epic First Nations snowmobiling expedition.


Inaugural Cree Knowledge Festival presents two days of art, storytelling, discussion panels. 

Pope finally repudiates “Doctrine of Discovery”. 

Book launch at Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada of E nâtamukw miyeyimuwin: Residential School Recovery Stories of the James Bay Cree, illustrated by Cree youth and written by Ruth DyckFehderau, containing 19 accounts from Cree survivors. 


Cree leaders discuss conservation, push for representation at United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. 

Cree fighters Quinn Blacksmith and Albert St-Pierre become champions at Montreal Fight League event, hope to establish training facility in Ouje-Bougoumou. 

Danny Pash appointed new president of Cree Construction. 

Cree School Board hosts first ever Post-Secondary Students Services Conference in Ottawa with inspiring speeches, workshops, cultural teachings. “They saw I’m not alone on this education path,” said Darryl Diamond, CSB’s post-secondary student affairs technician.

Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association initiates Manchadauu program to help families affected by domestic violence.


Grand opening of Home Dialysis Training Centre and Respiratory Clinic in Waskaganish celebrated as a significant step towards bringing more Cree people with diabetes home to Eeyou Istchee. 

Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre announces major expansion. 

Premiere of Rezolution Pictures’ Little Bird, a critically acclaimed series executive produced by Ernest Webb. 

First Cree Women Business Conference held in Chisasibi to focus on the region’s growing number of female entrepreneurs. 

June to August

Wildfires dominate summer months, forcing evacuations of many Cree communities beginning with Ouje-Bougoumou on June 6. Ouje Deputy Chief Lance Cooper told Prime Minister Trudeau: “When you and my people go to sleep tonight, our land is still on fire.” 

Smoke from forest fires caused health hazards in Eeyou Istchee and across northeastern North America and radically altered consultations with Quebec’s ministry of natural resources and forests. “The amount of timber that burned in Eeyou Istchee is equal to nine annual forestry plans,” said Waswanipi forestry consultant Allan Saganash.

Cree communities celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21. 

Elder Robbie Matthew Sr’s legacy honoured after he passes away. “Today the Cree Nation mourns the loss of its greatest spiritual guide, most tireless cultural advocate and guardian, and wisest mentor to generations of Cree leaders,” stated the Cree Health Board.

Historic lake sturgeon conservation agreement signed with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Cree athletes impress at North American Indigenous Games in Halifax. 

Indigenous music icon Robbie Robertson, founder of the Band, passes away on August 9.

Washaw Sibi chooses location near Matagami for future community at special meeting on August 12. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” said Chief Annie Mapachee-Salt.


Cree Health Board’s Youth Protection Commission launches public consultations. “Now we have the chance to do what we should have done 45 years ago,” said commissioner Bella Petawabano.

Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty and Cree delegation shares experience about Fort George residential school site investigations at National Gathering on Unmarked Burials. “We become the voice for people who don’t want to talk about it,” said George E. Pachano.

CNG launches Cabin Damage Assessment Registry. 

Cree entities and communities sign partnership agreement to support Community Miyupimaatisiiun Committees.


Cree Nation shares wildfire stories and other issues in meeting with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. “How big an impact it has on the Cree way of life has not really been recognized elsewhere,” said CNG justice director Donald Nicholls. 

Chisasibi Resource and Research Institute (CERRI) constructs agriculture research dome. 

Eastmain hosts Annual General Assembly postponed from August due to nearby fires. 

In Manitoba, Wab Kinew becomes Canada’s first Indigenous provincial premier. 


Cree Nation Youth Council launches post-secondary tour of Montreal, Ottawa and North Bay. 

Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association’s annual general meeting in Whapmagoostui plans industry’s recovery after fires thwart summer hopes. 

Canadian Rangers conduct training sessions in Nemaska and Ouje-Bougoumou. 


Cree School Board announces new Department of Higher Learning. “Ultimately part of our plan is for a Cree CEGEP in our territory,” said director Darlene Cheechoo.

Cindy Woodhouse elected new national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. “We need infrastructure and all those things maybe Canadians take for granted,” said Woodhouse. “I’d like to hold their feet to the fire to get those gaps closed in a good respectful way.”

Manon Jeannotte becomes Quebec’s first Indigenous lieutenant-governor. “Maybe I can be a change-maker – this position is significant to Indigenize the system,” Jeannotte told the Nation.

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Patrick Quinn lives in Montreal with his wife and two small children. With a passion for words and social justice, he enjoys sharing Eeyou Istchee's stories and playing music.