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"Moose Factory is My Home": MoCreebec's Struggle for Recognition and Self-Determination

Date

2016-08-05

Journal Title

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Type

Thesis

Degree Level

Masters

Abstract

This thesis, based on my ethnographic research in Moose Factory, Ontario documents the history of MoCreebec people from the early Twentieth Century to the present. As Euro-Canadian hunters came onto the James Bay Cree territory and depleted the beaver population, and the Canadian state failed to provide adequate services to the Cree people, many Cree in the coastal area had no choice but to migrate to places where they could survive. Some of them moved from Quebec to Moose Factory, Ontario to find employment and receive medical attention from the regional hos-pital. These are the circumstance that led to the creation of Tent City where many of the MoCree-bec members lived. This thesis also looks at how the creation and enforcement of boundaries by the Canadian state have divided the Cree people by drawing on theories by authors such as Toby Morantz, Frederik Barth, and Glen Coulthard. The federal government deliberately excluded the Quebec Cree from Treaty 9 as the Quebec government pursued its own policy on Native people in the province and did not recognize Aboriginal rights. As a result, the Cree in Ontario received better service from the federal government while the Cree in Quebec lived in substandard housing. But things changed dramatically with the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975. By the 1980s, the Cree in Quebec had a far more advanced housing program and public infrastruc-ture than any other Indigenous communities in the region. The agreement subsequently became a role model for comprehensive land claims and self-government agreements in Canada. However, the Quebec Cree in Moosonee and Moose Factory were neither consulted nor invited to participate in the negotiation process because of their residency in Ontario. Section 3.2.7 of the agreement also limited the distribution of beneficiary rights to those residing in the agreement’s designated boundaries. Living conditions in Tent City remained substandard and social problems like alco-holism and inter-personal violence became rampant while their counterparts in Quebec enjoyed relative prosperity. As they had no recognized status as a band and received no government assis-tance, the MoCreebec people were forced to organize themselves and stand on their own feet. In the following decades, they successfully developed various entrepreneurial projects like Cree Village Ecolodge and Moose River Broadcasting Association to support themselves finan-cially. They have also experimented with the Clan Councils system as a model of governance al-ternative to the Indian Act-sanctioned band councils system, which they saw as a model more con-sistent with the traditional Cree governance. Through these projects, the MoCreebec people fos-tered self-sufficiency, which they saw as the core of Cree identity. However, despite their suc-cesses, Section 3.2.7 still bars them from accessing the benefits of the agreement. The section par-ticularly affects the young people as they are often forced to suspend their study and relocate to Quebec in order to reinstate their beneficiary status. The MoCreebec people are also seen as out-siders by both the Cree in Quebec and their Moose Cree neighbours because of their residence in Moose Factory as well as their lack of status in Ontario. In response, the MoCreebec people have persistently asserted their claim to Moose Factory as part of an undivided Cree homeland. I be-lieve my thesis will make a particular contribution to the James Bay literature through its critical analysis of the JBNQA and the impact of territorial boundaries on James Bay Cree and Indigenous Peoples in general.

Description

Keywords

Indigenous peoples, treaties, land claims, and boundaries

Citation

Degree

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Department

Archaeology and Anthropology

Program

Anthropology

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