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July Photo of the Month: Cree Women, Whapmagoostui Quebec 1993

First Nations Gathering, Whapmagoostui, Quebec, Canada  1993
Photo: Langelle

Eighteen years ago, in July of 1993, Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle were invited by Cree Chief Mathew Mukash to visit Cree territory to document the effects of, and resistance to, Hydro-Quebec’s damming of rivers on their traditional lands to provide electricity to Canada and the US.

In the above photograph, Cree elder women listen intently during the First Annual Whapmagoostui (Great Whale) Gathering on the banks of Hudson Bay near James Bay.  At this gathering, Cree and Inuit peoples came together to discuss their resistance to Hydro-Quebec’s plans to expand their hydro-electric projects by building a new dam on the Great Whale river.

Many stories were told during this gathering about how First Nation Peoples are enduring the plundering of their land and about their struggle to protect it.

One testimony described how the Cree who lived on their ancestral island of Fort George were relocated to flimsy houses in the prefabricated town of Chisasibi on the mainland, when Hydro-Quebec built a massive dam on the La Grande river, threatening their Fort George island home.  Since the relocation, the Cree in Chisasibi have been plagued by a high rate of alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide.  Some people in the community developed symptoms of mercury poisoning from eating fish from their traditional fishing areas, due to mercury leaching out of the flooded soil and into the new reservoirs.

“Cree culture has a lot to offer in the area of nature, which is something very much needed in the world.  In western society, everything is segregated.  That is what is ruining the world.  People have to think more holistically about their actions.  Everything comes down to ‘how much money can I make from this.’  Until this changes, all this talk of environmental protection is bullshit.”      — Cree Helen Atkinson

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Orin Langelle, GJEP’s Co-director/Strategist, is currently working on a book of four decades of his concerned photography.  From mid-June to mid-July Langelle worked on his book as an artist in residence at the Blue Mountain Center in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

Also check out the GJEP Photo Gallery, past Photos of the Month posted on GJEP’s website, or Langelle’s photo essays posted on GJEP’s Climate Connections blog.

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Filed under Climate Change, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle