Protecting the Cree Way of life and Heritage

Conserving the Broadback Area is of critical importance to maintaining the Cree way of life, centered upon hunting, fishing and trapping. The Cree have used the forests, wildlife, lakes and rivers intensively since immemorial. The Broadback River and its tributaries has served the Cree as a key travel route to move through this territory; just as highways are used today.

Approximately 40 traplines (or family hunting territories) are situated within the Broadback watershed. The boundaries of traplines follow the natural landscape, mainly by the flows of rivers. The trapline boundaries have been defined by the Cree, and they serve as sustainable resource management areas overseen by an “Indoho Ouchimau” or tallyman.

The Mishigamish area, north of the Broadback River in the Waswanipi sector, is of key importance to the people of Waswanipi. Nearly all of Waswanipi’s territory has been permanently altered by industrial forestry and the related road network. Only a few traplines in the Mishigamish area have remain intact in their natural state. Protection from industrial development for the Mishigamish area is critically important as it is the last area in Waswanipi’s territory where people can continue to experience the traditional Cree way of life, in the way of their ancestors did before them.

The Broadback river flows in and out of Lake Evans (Chisesaakahiikan in Cree), which at 450 km² is one of the largest lakes in Québec. Evans is also the largest natural lake south of the 55th parallel that remains for the most part inaccessible by road. It is known for its clean water, plentiful stocks of pike, walleye, trout and sturgeon which has always sustained the Cree. It is also a popular destination for sport fishermen, who access it through outfitting camps. Safeguarding the integrity and remoteness of Lake Evans is of the upmost importance for the Cree.

Another area priorized for protection is Old Nemaska. Long before contact with non-Aboriginals, Lake Nemiscau (Nemaskau sakhegun) was a trading place where northern Cree met with southern Cree, and with other Aboriginal peoples from the south. It was a place to socialize and trade for goods that were not readily available in their areas. During the fur trade period, various companies operated trading posts on Lake Nemiscau. The Nemaska people gathered every summer at Old Nemaska to trade goods, socialize, and smoke and preserve many species of fish for winter. The people of Nemaska continue to gather there to this day.

Lake Nemiscau also features an important pictograph (rock painting) site, which archaeologists have referred to it as one of the most important in Quebec, due to its size (over 35 metres) and to the complexity and richness of the motifs.

The Broadback conservation proposal area is literally covered by Cree place names (see map below), which is a legacy of the use and occupancy of this area by the Cree over time. Each place is in turn connected to stories and past events. There exists a Cree saying that explains “where there is a bend on a river, there is always a story or legend that took place many years ago”…