It’s an epic struggle, one that has gone on since 1971 between the Quebec government and the Cree and Inuit opponents of the largest hydroelectric project in the world: a plan to dam the rivers that flow into James Bay from Eastmain in the south to the Great Whale River in the north.
A new documentary, Together We Stand Firm, tells the story of the contentious negotiations that led up to the signing, in 1975, of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQCA). Told mostly from the Cree perspective, the film’s events are taking on new relevance today, as new phases of Quebec’s Plan Nord are due to be implemented, the Nunatsiaq News reported recently.
The battle, then as now, was over land. The Cree and Inuit eventually agreed to sign over rights to major swathes of their territory in return for $225 million. Not everyone liked the deal, but the historic agreement at least acknowledged the aboriginals’ rights to the land rather than just assuming the government could take possession.
“We have no doubt in our mind that we own our land,” activist Zebedee Nungak told fellow Cree and Inuit back then, according to the Nunatsiaq News. “And we’re not going to go around trying to prove it. It’s up to the people who are trying to invade it to disprove it.”
Together We Stand Firm was produced by the Grand Council of the Crees in collaboration with the Cree Naskapi Commission and directed by Franziska Van Rosen and Pinegrove Productions. It’s in Cree and English, with English and French subtitles.
Three more such films are in the pipeline highlighting Cree political achievements, the Nunatsiaq News said, each one focusing on a different decade. See the film’s website for more information and video interviews with Cree chiefs and film producers.