The Cree and the Land
(Cree for Little House) is a Cree village of about 2000 people at the mouth of the Rupert River on the south-east shore of James Bay in the Eeyou Istchee territory in Northern Quebec, Canada. It is the most southerly Cree community in Eeyou Istchee. Formerly called Fort Rupert, the location is one of three original Hudson’s Bay Company posts on James Bay, the other two being Fort Albany on the west shore, and Moose Factory on the south.
Eastmain is a Cree village of about 900 on the south shore of the Eastmain River near James Bay. The Cree Trappers Association main office is in Eastmain.
Wemindji, from wiimin uchii meaning “ochre hills” in Cree formerly known as Old Factory, a little island 45 kilometres south of the current location. Wemindji has been relocated since 1959 and sits at the mouth of the Maquatua River on the east coast of James Bay, in northern Quebec, Canada. Since the relocation of our people from Old Factory Island to our current location, Wemindji has grown at a rapid pace now home to over 1,400 people. The Cree people who live here, who also call themselves Iyiyuuch in our own language, meaning “the people” have a deep attachment to our past and to keeping our traditions alive. The Iyiyuuch continue to practice the ancient hunting, fishing and trapping way of life that sustained our ancestors for many generations. Today within our community a third of our population still live year-round in the bush, while others go back to their family traplines’ on weekends or when they have free time.
Where the “Great River” shelters a growing local and non-local population. Chisasibi is the biggest of all the nine Cree communities of the Eeyou Istchee territory. A real northern metropolis, the rich Cree culture pulses with a living past and a promising future. Although Chisasibi Cree people still undertake traditional activities like trapping, fishing, hunting, picking, etc., many of our community members work into one of the many organizations located in the village. Counting over 5,000 people, Natives and non Natives, Chisasibi has been established more than 35 years ago. This major relocation from Fort George island to the current Chisasibi site is an inevitable chapter of the history of our community.
Whapmagoostui, is the northernmost community located at the mouth of the Great Whale River on the coast of Hudson Bay in Nunavik. It’s home to approximately to 960 Cree and 740 Inuits. Whapmagoostui means the Place of the Whales. It is the only Cree coastal community in Eeyou Istchee not accessible by road.
Eeyou Istchee—which means the People’s Land, comprises eleven Cree communities and over three hundred “traplines,” or traditional family hunting and trapping grounds. Our traditional territory, an area of over 400, 000 square kilometres, or two-thirds the size of France, is located primarily in northern Quebec and includes the lands on the eastern shore of James Bay and south-eastern Hudson Bay, as well as the lakes and rivers that drain into them. In addition, our traditional territory includes lands which we have historically occupied in Ontario, across the Ontario-Quebec border. Eeyou Istchee is home to over 18,000 people.
The Cree Trappers’ Association’s mandate and responsibility consist in protecting and promoting the interests and values of Eeyou/Eenou trappers, traditional pursuits, and governance of hunting territories in Eeyou Istchee. This mandate extends to the management of territory and wildlife resources and of environmental matters. The main goals of the Association are:
- To foster, promote, protect and assist in preserving the way of life, values, activities and traditions of the Eeyou/Eenou trappers of Québec and to safeguard the traditional system of Eeyou/Eenou traplines.
These “traditional systems” have prevailed over time, and are of great significance and importance to the Cree Nation for any future agreements. Today, the CTA continues to represent and defend the values, traditions, and practices of its members.
More recently, under the Offshore Agreement, the CTA’s responsibilities in the coastal regions are as follows:
- To be regularly consulted by the Wildlife Board on wildlife management matters;
- To consult its members and recommend wildlife management measures;
- To have a role in the monitoring of harvesting activities and ensure that harvesters are aware of all special measures implementation in the Offshore region;
- To allocate and enforce basic need levels where quotas are applicable.
The Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board (EMRWB) is established as the main instrument for managing wildlife in the EMR. The board has four members appointed by the Cree Nation Government, one member appointed by the Government of Nunavut and two members appointed by the Government of Canada. The Crees have the exclusive right to harvest certain species and they have the right to harvest any species of wildlife in the Eeyou Marine Region to fulfill their economic, social and cultural needs. Some restrictions may be considered to allow for conservation.