Thanks to the hard work of our employees and the collaboration of our many partners, we have successfully implemented many different programs, ranging from the training of Crees for skilled jobs with Hydro-Quebec (over 50 Crees now occupy permanent positions), the rejuvenation of Cree community and family fisheries, the support of numerous cultural activities including summer gatherings and the enhancement of goose hunting facilities. This is not to mention the hundreds of kilometres of snowmobile and ATV trails already built throughout Eeyou Istchee.
On its 20th anniversary, Niskamoon Corporation salutes The Nation magazine and wishes it many more years of success and positive change.
Dam doors lowered on the Rupert River
Crees gather to witness end of an era and bid farewell to an old friend
by Ernest Webb
Less than a decade after the announcement of the Paix des Braves agreement, the doors have closed on the Rupert River. At 11am on November 7, the doors were lowered on the dam, signalling the end of an era on the Rupert.
A few busloads of people from Nemaska and Waskaganish, along with some from Mistissini, travelled to the site to witness the occasion. For many of them, they came to say goodbye to the river. For others, it was like saying goodbye to an old friend or family member.
A lot of the hunters and trappers got ready for the moment by trapping out the beaver in the affected areas above and below the dam. For Freddy Jolly it was like the beaver were giving themselves to him more readily than ever. In the weeks leading up to the closure, he trapped about 14. “I think they know what's coming and they are giving themselves to me,” he said. “It was never that easy for me.”
Like other trappers Freddy Jolly donated his trapped beaver to the feast held at Walter Jolly's camp. A large tent, called a Washaogoomkw, was erected for the occasion. Mary Jolly, Winnie Moar and other women were busy preparing the meat in the days leading up to the feast. Thawing out the smoked bear meat and receiving the beaver caught in the traps from around the dam.
Just before the closure people were given a chance to speak at a podium set up with a microphone and loudspeakers. People got up and spoke, but it was Bella Jolly who was one of the most vocal. She was upset that no one was there to represent Hydro-Québec. “When people see this on TV, it will look like it's us Crees who are doing the damming,” she observed.
Also conspicuously absent at the closure was the Cree leadership. Neither the people who sold the deal to the Crees nor the current leadership were there.
At 11am the door was lowered onto the river. People had expected the door to close all the way but it stopped short, leaving a partial flow. This was to allow the river to adjust to the new levels and not leave fish stranded in shallow pools.
Freddy Jolly had brought a bagful of sand to throw into the river. As the doors lowered, he passed it on to his family members and others who had their territories along the river. One by one they threw a handful to the river. He said it was like saying “goodbye to the river and to the graves that will be underwater.”
Afterwards everyone went to Walter Jolly's camp, which is in view of the dam, and had a feast of the beaver, moose and bear. Again people were given a chance to say something.
Helen Mettaweskum took the microphone and shared a story she had never told before about Kawaapashkewschtwaat, her father Luke Mettaweskum’s grandfather, from 200 years ago. Once as Kawaapashkewschtwaat was walking, he pointed out a spot and said he wanted to be buried there because “it won’t be flooded there.”
As the Rupert is at 30% of its original flow now people along the river will have to wait for the weirs to be finished so the water levels will come back to the old levels. While the water won’t have the same intensity as before, people are hoping the fishing will not be affected and the weirs will do their job in ensuring that.