Rebuilding a New Life
Site of present day Nemaska.
After seven (7) years of “exile”, in September 1977, the Nemaskau Eenouch decided to gather at Doethawagan (Champion Lake), near their original settlement. With the help of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) the community members, considered, discussed and evaluated their situation. Approximately ninety-five (95) members were present. The Nemaskau Eenouch at had a choice whether to attempt “assimilating” into their respective communities of relocation or they could start over.
According to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement they could resettle “within the vicinity of Nemaska Lake”. If they choose to resettle within the area they were given by Government Officials three (3) choices for the location of their new community, they choose none. The Nemaskau Elders had made a recommendation for the site and the Nemaskau Eenouch chose the site recommended by the Elders. The decision to listen to the Elders has proven itself, beyond a doubt, fruitful and wise over the past twenty-eight (28) years. The new Village has been threatened on three (3) separate occasions by out of control, raging forest fires and each time the new Community has remained unscathed although the people had to be evacuated.
Present day Nemaska.
In 1976, 147 band members formally pledged themselves to permanently relocate on Lake Champion. The Band administration was composed of one Chief and two councillors and the annual budget provided by Indian Affairs was $12,000. In 1980 housing construction began. The community church was the first building to be completed and an access road linking the community to the Hydro Quebec gravel road ‘58’ was completed allowing residents to properly commute for the first time.
Nemaska is now accessible by air through daily flights by Air Creebec and is linked to both the James Bay Highway, which leads into Abitibi Temiscamingue and the Route du Nord leading into Chibougamau. The community features two hotels, and hosts the Cree Regional Authority head offices, a newly constructed Band Office, a postal office, a community Wellness Center, the Luke Mettaweskum School, and a newly constructed church.
The Nemaskau Eenouch have turned a forest into a vibrant and wholesome modern community. Links to the previous settlement on Nemaska Lake are strongly maintained. The area was declared a historic site by the Nemaska community and has been recognized as such by the Cree Nation. The reconstruction of family houses as they were in 1960s has been under way for the past couple of years.
Every summer Nemaska holds a traditional gathering every summer at Nemaska Lake. The Journey of the Nemaskau Eenouch has only just begun….