Norman Hawkins: 1946-2017

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It was with great sorrow that I learned Norm Hawkins passed away on February 22.

Norm was a man I respected as a straight talker. He never sugarcoated a situation. He never got rich off the Cree people but worked on their behalf because he felt it was the right thing to do.

Norm never sought the spotlight while serving the Cree Nation since 1978. His favourite saying was, “We need to run the numbers.” His running the numbers changed the Cree world.

Norm’s longtime friend, Cree Nation Government Executive Director Bill Namagoose, remembers him as a mentor and tireless worker. “In 1983 Norm was tasked to come up with a number on how much it would cost to operate all the Cree communities. We needed a number to table with Canada for our budget negotiations to accompany the Cree-Naskapi Act, the first Aboriginal self-government legislation in Canada. He went to all of the Cree communities and ran the numbers for each and in the end he came up with a number,” reminisces Namagoose.

“At that time all the Cree communities had a combined budget of less than $3 million. He calculated we would need $11 million plus an escalator or indexation, which became known as the ‘Norm Hawkins Formula’. It was more than triple of our total budgets.”

Some of the Cree Chiefs were incredulous and asked Norm what he had been smoking and said the governments will never agree to that amount. But Norm was proved right, said Namagoose, when “that number of $11 million and the Norm Hawkins Formula became part of the Cree-Naskapi Act funding package for the Crees.”

The Norm Hawkins Formula now brings in annually $98 million to the Cree communities. It is a fitting legacy for a man about whom most Cree know almost nothing.

It wasn’t only individual communities that Norm had a hand in helping. Namagoose credits him with helping found both Air Creebec and the Cree Construction Company. “Norm gave us advice on how to manage and invest our compensation funds,” said Namagoose.

Namagoose said Norm was part of most of the negotiations that he led on major agreements. During breaks in the talks “[Norm] would give his analysis on what had just transpired and he was usually right. We would change tactics or be more aggressive. And most of the time, we ended up with groundbreaking agreements that propelled the Cree Nation.”

When informed of Norm’s passing, Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come said, “We will miss him. Not only has Norm contributed to the great success of our Nation, but he was a wonderful friend.”

Namagoose also spoke at Norm’s funeral. “To his family I say, thank you for sharing Norm, thank you for sharing your husband, your dad, thank you for sharing your grandfather with the Cree Nation. We will be forever grateful.”

He will be missed.

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