Dr. Matthew Coon Come speaks to the
of Marianopolis College in Montreal on his
life & achievements.
In 2008, at the request of my daughter, I
to speak to her fellow students about the Crees of Quebec
and his role in the James Bay Agreement.
Some inspirational quotes on what he
"My family to me is very important, it's the only thing that I have, because no matter how successful
you are and what you can accomplish, if the home is divided, it cannot stand. But if the home is secure, it's
amazing what you can achieve in your aspirations and whatever goals that you have."
"My Dad told me: 'you go to school, and you learn the white
man's ways, his ways, know his laws, know the way he thinks, and learn them well, for these shall be your
tools, in what you want to achieve and what you want to do with your life'."
"Our life was disrupted."
"The community I was from would be under water.
You can imagine when you're a high-school student, knowing that your community would be under water and what
went through me, mixed emotions, what are we going to do?"
"If you're a hunter, fisherman, and trapper and you flood an area of
11,000 square kilometres of land, that means you'll displace people, you've dispossessed them, you have
marginalized them. So what do you do in return? There's a violation of basic fundamental human rights when
you displace people. And we were told that we were squatters in our own land. We were told we had no
rights, but that we had privileges, they were at the discretion of the government of quebec. The federal government
never came to our aid, to help us, to tell us that you do have rights."
"We felt, and I learned that you can determine your future by what you do
"You've got to be careful who you listen to, you've got to careful who
you share your dreams with, because there are people that will pull you down 'cos they don't like you when you step
out of the box. They like you the way you are because they can pin you, they can pigeon-hole you, but you
come out of the box. You gotta think outside of the box, to do things you have never done. To do things you have
never done before, you've got to be able to speak it. Words are powerful, they give life or they give
death. I was determined that my words would give life, that I would speak it, and yes we can do it, we can
stop this project."
"Want to do something about your area? Your community? Know the
administrative machinery. When we approached hydro quebec, I studied hydro quebec.....You
got to know your enemy."
"There was this one elder, he was from my community. He was given the bible, to
testify....his response was, 'I can only tell you what I know', that was his response. In other words, he could
only tell you about anything else, only what he knows. And that to me, taught me a great deal, to be able
to only talk about what you know, and if you don't know it, you learn about it, but you will know
"We wanted to protect our way of life as hunters, fishermen, and
"I decided, I'm going to test the federal government of their
legislation called Indian Act. Now you don't have an act for Jewish people. Do you have an act for
the Korean people? Do you have an act for the Chinese people?..... But you have an act for the Indian people called
the Indian Act."
"Don't allow anybody to ever tell you that it cannot be done, 'cos you
can make a difference, you can change it. You can think outside of the box, do things that never been
done before, and you will speak it. You will be what you want to be, you will say what you want to say, you will go
where you want to go. Do not allow other people to tell you that it cannot be done."
"So where do we go? The ink is barely dry, promises made, and they're
broken. The government got what they wanted, hydro quebec got what they wanted, got the land, they got
their permit, and here we are still waiting for health services, educational, etc.,etc., all these policing
services. We had to fight again. So we took them to court."
"So we learned the system, yes I went to university. I went to Trent University,
I went to McGill University. I did my time, in jail (laughter). I did my time, and I learned the
"Every environmental administrator was on the payroll of hydro
quebec, every university was on the payroll of hydro quebec. We couldn't find one person that
could help us, because they were all on the payroll. Hydro quebec, the government of quebec contributed
millions of dollars to cgeps, to other universities.They control.
"I said: 'who's buying this energy anyways'? We found out that
90% of the energy was going to be exported to upper state New York."
"No one has a monopoly on ideas. But you got to be
receptive. There is wisdom in the council of many. Don't be afraid to ask people what they think, even of they
disagree with you. There is council in the wisdom of many."
"But the challenge, to find it, is how do you co-exist when you have a
way of life that supports you? I always say the land is the largest employer for us as hunters,
fishermen, and trappers. So how do you find a way that you can adapt and co-exist when you know that
the land is not sufficient to support your way of life?, so we had to adapt."
"Our values have been challenged, our beliefs are being challenged, but
we have to find a way of how we can co-exist with development."
"We were not against development, what we wanted is to have a
say in the way development takes place."
"The original government did not live up to their promises, they
reneged on their obligation to the Crees, breached their commitments, in other words: they broke their
promises to us, and we sued them, took them to court as a result of that. In doing that, in essence we were
assuming the responsibilities of the federal government because our people...everything that we had
controlled was taken from us from the federal government. What we wanted to do was take that control back
and give it to our people."
"...I believe that whatever was taken from our lands, that we should benefit, not
just the people down south."
"But who am I to tell my children, my grand-children what they can
do? They will decide. It was our time, and you will have that time too, and you will tell your story
like I did. You see, the greatest song has not been written, the greatest story has not been told.....each
generation will have their turn....."
"It is the young people that will decide".
"I have faith in our young people,
I have faith that they can decide what is best for them, I have faith in what they do right
now, that they determine their future, I have faith they will make the right