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Don Saganash walks in his trapline near the Broadback River.
The Cree Nation of Waswanipi of Northern Quebec want to prevent further industrial logging of the forest in their traditional territory, the Broadback Valley.
Waswanipi — Negotiating rough forestry roads in his black Ford F150 pickup, Don Saganash explains how he came to lead the Waswanipi Cree of Northern Quebec in their battle to save the last intact boreal forest on their territory.
“My late dad, a year before he passed away, he appointed me as a tallyman,” Saganash recalls.
Others meeting with the logging company before him had said yes — but Saganash said no, and the band chief couldn’t change his mind.
Saganash was miffed that Coon Come had not consulted Waswanipi beforehand on the new deal, and was upset that the 9,134-square-kilometre protected area did not include the Waswanipi section of the Broadback Valley. Quebec’s top civil servant, secretary-general of the executive council Juan Roberto Iglesias, has named a Montreal expert as Quebec negotiator, and the two sides have agreed to a December deadline to redefine the protected area.Nicolas Mainville, Montreal-based Greenpeace forest campaigner, explained that the Cree wanted reporters (participants came from as far away as Germany) to see first-hand the damage that clear-cutting has done to the fragile boreal forest.Travelling by heavy-duty pickup trucks, then high-powered aluminum boats, Saganash guided reporters to a Cree portage, dating back 400 years and more, where canoes were carried by land around the Quénonisca Falls. “When you stand at the rapids, you can feel the rolling thunder.Gull described such areas on their traditional territory as being like “a scarred lung that would never heal.” On July 13, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, representing Quebec’s 18,000 Cree, signed a new agreement on co-management of forestry and protection of the woodland caribou.The agreement, which had been initiated by Cree lawsuits against Quebec for non-respect of a 2002 agreement on forestry management, says the Cree “shall not oppose the environmental authorization of access roads.” The idea had been that the nine James Bay Cree chiefs would all sign.