Sunday, November 1, 2015

Canada and the James Bay Northern Quebec Treaty 1975

During the last five years gordongroup has been immersed in a project of a lifetime capturing in digital media the story about the First Modern Day Treaty in Canada. Canada is rich in diversity brought about by immigration over the last 500 years. Moreover, those who live here on the continent whose ancestral backgrounds and culture exceed the time of first arrival by European newcomers form a societal profile across Canada foundational to our country's provenance and identity.
These documentaries we hope will make a contribution and remain a record for those who aspire to learn more from the First Nations' perspective.
 In 1975, The James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement known today as the First Modern Day Treaty in Canada was signed in the Province of Quebec. The Crees of Eeyou Istchee came forward and won, within the Canadian judicial system a court ruling in their favour to halt resource development. Vast areas of territory would be flooded since the provincial government wanted to harness rivers with hydro dams.
Rupert River "the Fours rapids" 2015
 The project would forever alter the freshwater river arteries flowing throughout the Crees of Eeyou Istchee ancestral lands. These waterways, rich in  life, flow westbound, their inland headwaters deep within the expansive boreal forest.The rivers form the largest fresh watershed in the world cascading toward the Quebec coastline out into the vast open seawaters of James Bay.
 The first film in the series documents the story of what took place and captures the narratives of the signatories to the treaty.
 In Canada Treaties have been signed over the last centuries. Old treaties were used during the pioneering era of settler societies through to the early days of the 20th. century. Negotiating old treaties was discontinued as a result of Canadian governments moving away from the notion of peace and friendship with aboriginal groups to a policy unfortunately of assimilation and extinguishment. The outcomes from colonial authorities that provided ill -conceived leadership to the dominant societies of the day drove the ideologies of assimilation over decades. This is of course a Canadian historical reality. Clearly, this strategy was not progressive nor has this long historical journey contributed meaningfully toward building a better more harmonized inclusive accord among Canadian society. The results of old treaties are evident on reserves across Canada today. Treaty making since 1975 has been more progressive while old treaties remain in dire need of renovating. 
 During the 1970’s era a new approach toward  making treaties was ushered in.
The James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement, was created, the James Bay Crees successfully fought for and enshrined this new treaty in collaboration with the provincial and federal legislators at that time. This was a structural change of large proportions in the middle ground between Crown Indigenous relations.
The film series chronicles for the viewer the lead up to the signing of the Canadian first modern day treaty of 1975. We cover that with the narratives provided by those who were actually there at the time including Billy Diamond, Philip Awashish, Able Kitchen, Fred Blackned, Robert Kanatewat and Smally Petawabano. Four other signatories had passed away. These participants were among well over 100 others who had a part and contributed to preserving history for present and future generations within the film series.
 The film series is not only a reality check on the challenges faced by those who have been witness to the intrusion of dominant societies quest to gain access to resources upon First Nation ancestral lands but a series of testimonies about how these challenges have been overcome without violence rather incredible perseverance and dignity.
 We capture the last forty years with four films.  This period depicts the fight that took place throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, to have the Treaty agreements implemented. The most recent film gives voice to the events that unfolded over the first decade of the 21st century. 
 The Nisga’a Nation in the Nass Valley, Northern British Columbia fought for over a century leading up to 1970 to gain treaty rights within their territories in Canada. A declaration was granted by the Supreme Court in the  1970’s in favour of the the Nisga’a Nation. This ruling would eventually lead to a Modern treaty. The Nisga’a Nation entered into their treaty 24 years later with the Province and Federal government in 2000.

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