These compelling words were spoken by Matthew Coon Come on "Earth Day" April 22, 1990, the day that New Yorkers learned that 60 Cree & Inuit, travelling in a 24 foot craft named "The Odeyak" were at the end of a 1200 mile journey that began five weeks earlier on the Great Whale River on the east coast of Hudson's Bay.
The long journey was undertaken to raise awareness and gain support, both nationally and internationally, of the Cree-Inuit opposition to Quebec's Great Whale Hydro Electric Project "James Bay II." The Cree of Whapmagoostui and the Inuit of Kuujuaraapik united, organizing the voyage, for the sake of the land, for the sake of their children.
This initiative involved all of Eeyou Istchee with people from various communities helping with the planning, building of the Odeyak, and supporting the journey itself. Many leaders from Eeyou Istchee, including Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, joined in the voyage. Other First Nations leaders and chiefs joined in the journey, and paddled alongside the Cree delegation. Many important environmental, activist, and political groups and organizations also gave their support to the Cree and Inuit cause.
The word “Odeyak” is taken from the Cree word for canoe “Ode” and the last part of the Inuit word “Kayak.” The Odeyak was built in Kuujuaraapik by Billy Weetaltuk, with great help from his daughter, Caroline, his two sons Morris & Redfern, and his Cree friend Andrew Natachequan. A large six metre, ten person, wood-canvas canoe with an Inuit kayak-style enclosed stern, the Odeyak made its journey from Whapmagoostui/Kuujuaraapik (Great Whale) James Bay all the way to the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City.
This unique canoe, this epic voyage, was part of a remarkable effort on the part of the Cree Nation, one that ACCI would like to honour, celebrate, and remember. We would like you to be a part of this event.
We’re planning a commemorative ceremony to celebrate the “25th Anniversary of The Voyage of The Odeyak”. We would like to extend a call for donations to all people out there who had a chance to witness, or who have family members who participated in “The Voyage of The Odeyak” in March & April of 1990.
Were you, or your family, part of the Odeyak’s journey? Do you have old Polaroid pictures, photos, home movies, souvenirs, newspaper clippings, tapes, letters, postcards or journals of the people who were a part of this epic journey, as part of your family’s personal archives at home?
If you like to take part, and donate/lend any type of pictures or footage to us at ACCI, there are 2 ways to do so:
You can donate originals/copies of the photos to the museum. The photos will be credited to you as a donor and preserved here at the museum.
Or, you can loan us photos, which will be digitized and returned to you. The photos will be credited to you as a donor and preserved here at the museum.
For more information on how to make a donation, please contact:
Lisa Petawabano, Archivist
418-745-2444 ext. 2018 or email
For more information on the upcoming event, please email or call us at: 418-745-2444.
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