Washaw Sibi Eeyou

The River That Runs Into the Bay

The Washaw Sibi Eeyou has a distinct history and a vision to establish a new tenth (10th) Cree First Nation community within Eeyou Istchee.

We, the Cree people of Washaw Sibi have an inherent right to implement our plan to build a new community for our members. We have a right to govern ourselves and to have a home where we can ensure the survival and health of our people, our language, and our culture.

History

The Washaw Sibi Eeyou have lived for generations within the part of Eeyou Istchee that runs from Hannah Bay in the north, where the Harricana River flows into James Bay, down to the interior lakes and lands of the Abitibi. The Harricana River is the backbone that links our family hunting grounds and traplines together and served as the primary transportation route for our seasonal movements between the interior and the James Bay coast. Washaw Sibi is in fact the Cree name for the Harricana River. The word "Washaw" refers to Hannah Bay and "Sibi" means "river". Washaw Sibi may be translated literally as "the river that runs into the bay".

At some point after the commencement of the fur trade and the establishment of trading posts in the Lake Abitibi and La Sarre areas, the families of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou ceased their seasonal travel to the Hannah Bay area and began instead to gather in the summer at a large meeting place near what is now La Sarre, Québec.

In the late 1950s, the federal Department of Northern Affairs began to require our children to attend residential schools. Some were sent to Amos, La Tuque, Roberval, Sault Ste-Marie, Brantford, and others were sent to Chapleau and Moose Factory in Ontario. The federal government also imposed its policy to resettle native people, including the families of the Washaw Sibi Eeyou, within the permanent boundaries of the Indian Reserve system.

We were told that in order to continue to receive basic services we were required to move to Algonquin reserves in order to continue to receive services to which we were entitled under the Indian Act. The result was a forced dispersal of our people, with the majority being relocated to the Algonquin reserve of Pikogan at Amos and others moving to the Algonquin reserve of Lac Simon or the Ontario reserve of Wagoshig and other locations in Ontario. Others resettled in the towns of Amos or La Sarre.

As a result of this relocation to Algonquin reserves or urban settings, the Washaw Sibi Eeyou were not formally consulted nor were they made a part of the discussions leading up to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. DIAND had attempted to make us administratively disappear.