Dear Mr. Robert Kanatewat

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This is in response to your letter sent to me and included in this issue. I will say at this moment we have no record of you attempting to contact the editorial board or myself regarding the editorial by Boyce Richardson published in the Nation (Vol 16, Issue 10) on March 27, 2009. Your request for my reply to your telephone call may have been misplaced. My apologies if this is the case.

I applaud you and the other commissioners at the Cree Naskapi Commission for initiating this film, titled “The Eeyou of Eeyou Istchee”. I agree that Cree history should be documented so the next generations will have an idea of the difficulties and challenges faced by the Cree Nation during the 1970’s and onward. Indeed this film will be an important one as those leaders, who negotiated the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, are getting older and we need to preserve the real story.

I do admit I was initially confused by your letter as I understood from Bill Namagoose that the project happened because an “unsolicited proposal” came from the company doing the film. This was why they were chosen, I was told.

On the other hand, I do not understand why you would have found my comments totally disrespectful to our past and present leaders. All of them, whether it was local or regional have always said we need to hire more Crees. Reminding them of campaign promises and rhetoric is disrespectful? If so, then Crees should not expect leaders to follow through on what they say or promise. I know that Cree leaders in the past and present have always attempted to follow through on their promises.

Sometimes they are unable to do so because of finances, political considerations or a lack of them.

I assure you the Nation does not single out any leader to attack or disrespect. We are, however, in a democratic society allowed to question actions that seem to be not in keeping with their promises, mandates, trust and terms of their positions within the Cree world.

It is not meant as disrespectful and the focus is always on the issue and not the person.

Frankly the hiring of a European, while being a great director, over equally proficient Cree directors, of whom there are many, was the focus of the story. It was just that.

At the Nation we shall always promote the hiring of qualified Crees. Billy Diamond once told me within the Cree Nation there will always be about 33 per cent on the land, while another 33 per cent would find employment in Cree governments, entities and businesses and nearby non-Native businesses. He wondered about the other 33 per cent and said we need to take steps to build up local, regional and national economies in order to ensure they have a future.

I have taken this man’s words to heart and this is why I felt this was an important issue.

It was not only the film I was trying to bring attention to but that we should have a system of tendering that is open and gives qualified Cree businesses at least an equal opportunity to bid on a Cree project. Surely an equal playing field within the Cree world cannot be a bad thing for the Cree Nation as a whole.

I have thought long and hard on these issues and I print what facts I have at the time. If new facts, such as yours, come along I will adjust my position in regards to the issue.

With no disrespect,

Will Nicholls

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