Friends and colleagues say goodbye to Lawrence Jimiken

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On July 4, the Cree Nation lost another member of the team that negotiated the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and would continue to play an influential role in the development of Eeyou Istchee.

At the time of his death, Lawrence Clarence Jimiken held the position of Returning Officer for the Grand Council of the Crees. The Nation spoke to him often during late-night waits for election results over the years. He was a big part of that experience, sharing his knowledge of technical details and a deep understanding of Cree history.

We will miss him.


Do All Things Useful and Necessary

On Thursday, July 9, the Cree Nation put to rest Lawrence Clarence Jimiken, who passed away suddenly in his hotel room in Val-d’Or the weekend before.

Lawrence was born in Old Nemaska to Louisa Jimiken and Billy Ottereyes on September 28, 1949. He was the husband of Frances Wapachee and the father of Trevor, Raymond and Lorraine and he was also the grandfather of Brendan Jimiken. Lawrence grew up hunting around Nemaska Lake. His mother lost the use of one foot in childhood and got around hunting, cutting wood and caring for her family using a crutch to which she attached a snowshoe during the winter. Her extraordinary life served as an example to Lawrence and indeed all of her children as well as to all who knew her.

Lawrence attended residential school and was picked up every year and flown to Moose Factory, Brantford and later Sault Ste. Marie. It was in residential school that Lawrence met Billy Diamond and Ted Moses. In spite of the adversities of those schools, Lawrence became very fluent in English and maintained his high level of fluency in the Cree language throughout his life. While the other students were off playing sports, Lawrence was reading or completing the latest Gazette crossword puzzle. He became renowned in the Cree world for his encyclopedic knowledge of English, the Bible and of most of whatever he had read. He was not the best hockey player but Lawrence could walk. While at Sault Ste. Marie there was a walkathon organized which Lawrence won by walking 50 miles. “He left the rest of us in the dust,” recalled former Grand Chief Ted Moses. “We were surprised at how fast he was.”

After Lawrence finished secondary school and returned home, he found that the Old Post at Nemaska was closed. In 1970, the Jimiken family moved to Waskaganish at the mouth of the Rupert River, where Lawrence met his wife-to-be, Frances.

jimiken-2In 1972, the James Bay Hydroelectric Project was publicly announced. At that time, James Bay Quebec – or “Eeyou Istchee” as the Crees call their homeland – was isolated from the rest of the world. Roads, forestry and mining had only penetrated to southern areas. The only occupation for most of the communities was hunting and trapping and the families spent most of their time in the bush trapping furs and selling them to the Hudson Bay Company when they moved to the coast for the spring and summer.

When the time came to fight for the people’s rights, Lawrence was drafted as the spokesperson for Nemaska and Waskaganish. He also went to Moose Factory to inform the east-coasters who lived there of the progress in the court case and the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

Lawrence was always a supporter of the local people. As chief, Lawrence fought to rebuild Nemaska on a new site and when he was re-elected in the 1990s having experienced the slow progress of implementing the James Bay Agreement he made common cause with all of the communities to resist James Bay II. He also served as the electoral officer for the various referenda that were later held to approve the new agreements and it was Lawrence who coined the phrase for the directives passed by local councils and the Grand Council that those receiving the directions do “all things useful and necessary” to carry out the directive.

When hydroelectric development came to his community, Lawrence participated in the discussions with Hydro-Québec at the negotiation table and later he was an important member of the Monitoring Committee that oversaw the numerous studies that were done on everything from design issues to the impacts of the proposed Eastmain 1A–Rupert Diversion-Sarcelles project.

He was a perceptive interlocutor for his community and a stubborn fighter for his cause. When the project was finished his community chose him to be the Nemaska representative on the Rupert River Water Management Board so he could continue to watch over the evolution of the river and the use made of it by his people.

Those who knew Lawrence will always appreciate him for what he was: a home-grown boy with a biting sense of humour, a penchant for knowledge and a love for the land and his people.

Lawrence Jimiken will be missed by all of us.   

Matthew Coon Come


I remembered all the times we shared and talked over coffee and his cigarette. He would mumble and it took a special ear to understand him. When you did, you knew this man was a genius. Lawrence had incredible knowledge, wisdom and a photographic memory. I would always be surprised to hear the exact year and date of meetings from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and who said what! I never knew this was humanly possible! His contribution to the community of Nemaska and other organizations won’t be forgotten and his insightful input will be missed. I will miss him. Rest in His peace my friend.

Joshua Iserhoff


Lawrence was part of the original James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement negotiations team. He was a very young man at the time; I saw the pictures of him from back then, he had long hair.

I really think he did a lot for his community of Nemaska. At the time they were negotiating for their village and he was very involved in all aspects of this development. I think that the community will miss him very much, particularly when it comes to his negotiations skills.

Jack Blacksmith


I have known Lawrence since childhood, we are cousins. He was a little older than me and when we were at the Old Post, he was one of the very few who spoke English and so that is how I remember him very clearly.

He was one of the first people who went out to residential school and then shortly thereafter we started going until we left the Old Post back in 1970.

When I knew Lawrence in the beginning we used to call him a bookworm because he was constantly reading. He would always bring a lot of books home and was very adamant about reading and was a speed-reader. He could read a pocket book in just a few hours and tell you the whole story. He had a photographic memory.

Larry Linton once handed him a Bible and he read it in three days. Larry then asked him questions about it and Lawrence knew everything.

He was also very active in the development of new community of Nemaska.

We will miss him.

Thomas Jolly

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