Eeyou Istchee, the ancestral home of the James Bay Crees, comprises ten coastal and inland communities in north-central Quebec. Our Territory encompasses 400,000 sq. km., or a fifth of Quebec’s total land-mass. It includes the lakes and rivers that drain into eastern James Bay and south-eastern Hudson Bay, along with the salt marshes, coastal islands, interior uplands, dense coniferous forests and tundra. For the Cree, this entire natural bounty — the lands and waters, the plants and animals — is sacred.
Our relationship with Eeyou Istchee has been shaped over thousands of years of hunting, fishing and trapping, guided by the values of respect and gratitude for the land, both to our Elders and to the Creator. Courage and patience, sharing and self-reliance defined our ancestors and inform who we are today.
Our duty to be wise stewards of our ancestral lands remains strong, even as it has evolved to accommodate a rapidly changing world. Indeed a series of landmark treaties have both strengthened our traditional way of life and ushered in new opportunities to better our communities. They include:
James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) with Quebec and Canada (1975)
Paix des Braves with Quebec (2002)
New Relationship Agreement with Canada (2008)
Eeyou Istchee James Bay Governance Agreement with Quebec (2012)
Through these agreements, the Cree have assumed responsibility for governance, education, health and social services, culture and language, communications, economic development, tourism, police, and the protection of natural resources and the environment.
In addition, the Cree Vision of the Plan Nord (2011) has laid out a blueprint for the use and sustainable development of Eeyou Istchee that respects the Cree traditional economy.
More recently, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015), which laid bare the abuse of Indigenous schoolchildren across Canada, including within Eeyou Istchee, set a framework for healing, affirmation and redress.
We call ourselves Eeyou and Eenou, which simply means “the people.” There are more than 18,000 who belong to our nation, with nearly 16,000 residing in ten Cree communities.
Whapmagoostui, Chisasabi, Wemindji, Eastmain and Waskaganish are on the east coast of James Bay. While Nemaska, Waswanapi, Ouje-Bougoumou, Mistissini and Washaw Sibi are inland.
Eeyou Istchee is fully occupied and intensively used by our people. Based on traditional family territories, the Cree land management system has been operating with great efficiency for centuries.
Our economy embraces both traditional and non-traditional pursuits. While we continue to practice and protect our hunting, fishing and trapping ways, our communities and region engage every type of modern economic activity, generating development and employment within and outside Eeyou Istchee, and contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the regional, provincial and national economies.
Recognizing that sustainable development is necessary for our economic future, and particularly for our youth, we have concluded numerous energy, mining and forestry agreements within Eeyou Istchee.
Since the JBNQA, our increased responsibility for Eeyou Istchee has included not just governance, economic development and environmental protection, but also social and cultural development.
The Aanischaaukamikw Foundation, which raised $26 million to establish the world-class Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute, also demonstrated that philanthropy can be a positive force in our community — especially as we come to terms with the past and seek positive, mutually-beneficial relationships with non-Indigenous communities.
As in southern Canada, philanthropy is a vital addition to government funding for enhancing much-needed social and community projects.
Culture and identity are of central concern for our people. Our culture is thriving and our language is spoken by most Crees.
To celebrate and protect this unique culture, the Aanischaaukamikw Foundation in 2011 completed the award winning Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute. This architectural masterwork in Ouje-Bougoumou functions as a museum, archive, library and teaching centre dedicated to preserving and promoting our culture.
Aanischaaukamikw’s successful $26 million Sharing the Ways fundraising campaign, also demonstrated the power and potential of philanthropy within Eeyou Istchee.
The Aanischaaukamikw Foundation has evolved to become the Eenou-Eeyou Community Foundation (EECF). Granted charitable status by Canada Revenue Agency (No. 86904 2549 RR0001), EECF is a member of Community Foundations of Canada, and is in the vanguard of Indigenous community foundations. As a community foundation, EECF will develop philanthropic capacity throughout Eeyou Istchee.
EECF works with the Cree Nation Government and other Cree stakeholders to:
Engage Cree organizations, communities and individuals, as well as corporate partners, private foundations and neighbours to lend philanthropic support for projects in Eeyou Istchee
Establish a priority list of granting objectives for major cultural and social development initiatives
Invest in pilot projects that can be replicated and attract long-term Cree and government support
Set rigorous standards for program planning, execution and reporting for Cree grant-seekers, and help them build operational capacity
Establish major endowments for priority areas. EECF will retain leading investment managers to grow these funds, and use endowment income to fund grants
Senior Advisor, Grand Council of the Crees – Eeyou Istchee
Grand Chief – Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) / Chair - Cree Nation Government / Chair– Eeyou Istchee James Bay Regional Government
President – Secretariat to the Cree Nation Abitibi-Témiscamingue Economic Alliance
Chief Negotiator for Cree-Quebec Relations – Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)
Chair – Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay
Chair – Cree School Board
We urge you to support the development and growth of the Eenou-Eeyou Community Foundation, and the many projects it will fund.
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