Cree youth walk nearly 600km protesting against uranium extraction

Around 20 young Cree people have arrived in Quebec City after walking nearly 600km to protest against uranium exploration.

The group left Mistissini, Que., north-east of Chibougamau, Que., 13 days ago.

Uranium extraction has been on the table in Mistissini since 2006.

A Boucherville-based company, Strateco Resources, has invested $120 million into developing a uranium mine in Mistissini in the last ten years.

“I want Quebecers to stand with us in this important, pivotal moment in our lives. We don’t want our waters to be contaminated.” said Joshua Iserhoff, chair of the Cree Nation Youth Council.

Iserhoff says the Cree are not opposed to the development of natural resources, but says the risk uranium extraction could pose on the region’s watershed is too high.

The Mistissini project has been on hold for almost two years.

Now, the province is holding public hearings on uranium mining.

The outcome of those public hearings will determine whether Strateco will be allowed to continue the project.

Joshua Isherhoff spoke with CBC’s Quebec A.M. 

On mobile? Listen to the interview here.

ᓂᔭ ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ

Niya Nehiyaw/ I am fully Cree

Danette Jubinville

Photo by Tashina Lewis (Nisga’a, Tahltan, Tlingit, Tsimshian)

This image confronts the idea of mixed identity. My ancestors are Cree/Saulteaux, French, German/Jewish, and Scottish/English, and for most of my life I identified myself in fractions: “I am one-quarter this” or “one-quarter that.” However, it never felt good to talk about myself this way, and I couldn’t help but notice that whenever I was asked why I looked so “exotic,” the person asking would hardly ever share their own ancestry in return. While non-white features have to be explained or justified, whiteness is the norm that goes unquestioned and unseen. 

Although I know that I have passing privilege, it has always been made clear to me that I look “not quite white.” At the same time, people don’t automatically assume that I am Native, and I have heard many racist remarks that were made in what was thought to be the safety of a non-Native audience. Conversely, although I strongly identify as Indigenous, in Indigenous spaces I still get asked if I am Native. The message is that I am not white enough to be white, nor am I Indian enough to be Indian. While I am told I don’t belong, I am also told ‘white’ and ‘Indian’ are legitimate categories. But really, these are false binaries that uphold hierarchies of power.

In order to fully love myself, I have to fight back against the identity labels that are put on me by settler society. After 500+ years of colonization, it is not useful to have a preconceived notion of what Indigenous looks like. Today, when I hear someone say that they are “one half” of something, I want to know, which half? We are whole people, not pies. Identity labels serve the colonizer because they are divisive and they create a breeding ground for self-hate. My Cree family loves all of me, not a part of me, and when I walk in Treaty 4 territory I know the land loves all of me, too. This is why I say Niya Nehiyaw, I am fully Cree.