The people of the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee have travelled far and worked hard to secure broad recognition of who we are and what we can accomplish. We have regained mastery of our lands and resources. We have established institutions of sound governance, launched flourishing businesses, and built strategic alliances with business and government at all levels. And yet, across the ten communities of Eeyou Istchee, far too many do not enjoy many of the advantages non-Native communities take for granted. In housing and social services, in health care and cultural development, in education and job creation, the gap remains far too pronounced.
Everything the Eenou-Eeyou Community Foundation does flows from the Eenou and Eeyou philosophy of putting sustainability of our land first. We are guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations.
We are deeply committed to preserving the land we’ve walked for thousands of years, so both the Boreal forest and species like Woodland Caribou, moose, and others are secured. The Cree Nation Government has set aside almost a third of our land in an untouched and undeveloped state, and we insist on Cree-led environmental reviews of any development projects in the region.
Acting on the guidance of these principles, the Foundation is committed to supporting a wide range of charitable causes across the region.
The Eenou and Eeyou have lived in harmony with the cycles of nature for millennia.
Ancient laws and customs guided the Crees’ shared stewardship of a vast territory called Eeyou Istchee. When Europeans arrived, our people integrated some of the European technologies and ways – assets that would later prove invaluable. We developed a reputation as skilled negotiators and intermediaries with other nations. The Cree system of land and resource management began to shift in the early 1600s.
With the establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company (1670), we expanded our traditional trapping practices in order to participate in this fur-trading economy.
Like First Nations across the continent, we gradually lost control of our lands, rights, and resources. During some darker periods, families were uprooted from their homes and lands. Poverty became a way of life, and many of us lost our children to the infamous residential school system, whose long shadow haunts Canada and its indigenous people to this day.
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In the 1970’s, when a massive hydroelectric project threatened Cree lands and way of life, the leaders of Eeyou Istchee stepped forward. They changed the project’s course and, in the process, won self-government for the Crees, and established a strong voice in future developments.
Quebec’s James Bay hydroelectric project, planned without consulting the people most affected, was a defining moment in modern Cree history. The project would forever flood Cree lands and erase an ancient way of life. In response to this threat to our very existence, our leaders stepped forward. They launched challenges in the courts of law and public opinion and successfully negotiated compensation for the affected communities.
On November 11, 1975, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) was signed – a world first for indigenous peoples. Beyond material compensation, the agreement paved the way for self-government and territorial rights. Other agreements followed, notably the Paix des Braves Agreement (2002) and the New Relationship Agreement with the federal government (2008). Most recently, the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Governance Agreement (2012) laid out a framework for shared governance, development and partnerships across one of the world’s largest regional governments, and the Crees of Eeeyou Istchee and the Government of Canada Agreement (2017) advances Cree self-governance on Category 1A lands.
Each has been an important milestone in helping us determine our way forward.
As a nation, we have evolved significantly since the signing of the JBNQA. Today, many Cree-owned business flourish and contribute to Quebec and Canadian prosperity. We manage our own education and health care systems with great effectiveness, and deliver culturally appropriate essential services across our vast territory.
Through our community and economic development efforts, we have regained much of what was lost, but there is still much to be done. It is into this challenging social and economic environment that the Eenou-Eeyou Community Foundation strives to make a profound difference through programs that will respond to the needs.
The Eenou-Eeyou Community Foundation works with the Cree Nation Government and other Cree stakeholders to:
A long tradition of wise and prudent governance informs the Eenou-Eeyou Community Foundation. The Board of Directors is broadly representative of Cree leadership in business, education, health and social services, culture, and government sectors. EECF board members are distinguished for their high ethical standards and reputation. The Board sets policy and guidelines for assessing grant requests from Cree communities. The Board will meet regularly to distribute grants, basing decisions on the viability and expected impact of each project, and tracking milestones, deliverables, and outcomes.
Tina Petawabano, President
Director of Federal and Indigenous Relations – Cree Nation Government
Grand Chief Dr. Abel Bosum, C.M.
Chair – Cree Nation Government
Chair – Cree Nation Government Board of Compensation
Kaitlynn Hester Moses
Youth Grand Chief, Cree Nation Youth Council
Me. Paul John Murdoch
Chief Negotiator for Cree-Quebec Relations – Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)
Dr. Sarah Pashagumskum
Chair – Cree School Board
Bella M. Petawabano
Chair – Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay