"Our small group of people were content for centuries pursuing our traditional way of life based on hunting and fishing. The Ouj-Bougoumou people welcomed the early prospectors to our region and escorted them throughout the territory helping them to survive in the sometimes harsh climate. As mineral deposits were identified in increased quantities more people entered the territory. Mining camps gave way to settlements which eventually gave way to towns. As the mining activities increased the Ouj-Bougoumou people came to be seen as an obstacle to industrial growth.
We were forced to relocate our villages time after time to make way for new mines. Between 1920 and 1970, the Ouj-Bougoumou people were forced to relocate no fewer than seven times. We witnessed our villages repeatedly destroyed. And we were left, scattered, to live in deplorable conditions as "squatters" on the land we had occupied since time immemorial.
But the Ouj-Bougoumou people refused to disappear. We decided to make our stand and take our rightful place in the region as the original inhabitants and the centuries-old stewards of the land. After a lengthy and protracted political struggle and, against all odds, Ouj-Bougoumou won recognition by the Government of Canada and the Province of Quebec of our right to live as a community. We began to re-build our village and restore the community life which had been shattered. Our courage and our commitment throughout the years was sustained by our yearning to live together again as a community. That determination was translated into the building of a new village. In Ouj-Bougoumou an enormous creativity was unleashed which was applied to the construction of a new village.
We are now in the process of transferring that creativity and that enthusiasm to the building of community. Having successfully built an award-winning village-basically a physical shell-we are now re-building our community and focussing on those areas of community life which will be essential to our long-term health and viability.
We hope that Ouj-Bougoumou can be an inspiration for indigenous peoples everywhere to continue their struggles to build healthy and secure communities.”
Chief, Ouj-Bougoumou Cree