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Profile: Grand Chief Matthew Mukash

More about some of the people from the 8th Fire TV series.

Grand Chief:


Matthew Mukash is a former Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees in Quebec. He has been a strong advocate for the protection of his peoples traditional way of life in the face of hydroelectric mega projects.

He was born in 1951, in the bush, near Whapmagoostui, the northernmost Cree village on James Bay, Quebec.

His parents raised him on the land; hunting, fishing and following Cree traditions. He later moved to Montreal and earned a degree at Concordia University, studying political science and engineering.

He returned to Whapmagoostui, and was, at different times; a police officer, an economic development agent, and Chief.

In 1989, the Quebec government announced it was going to divert and dam the Great Whale or Whapmagoostui River to sell power to the State of New York. Mathew Mukash was a leader in the battle to stop the dam.

(In 1975, the Crees signed away rights to a big chunk of their ancestral lands in the James Bay area to Hydro Quebec, for the construction of dams, in exchange for jobs and almost $170 million).

But Mukash and other Cree leaders felt there had been enough development.

The campaign of the James Bay Cree attracted extensive international media coverage and the support of the environmental lobby.

A highlight was a canoe trip organized by Mukash and Cree leaders which took them from Hudson Bay to New York City, arriving in time for Earth Day ceremonies.

"When we arrived at Battery Park, there were 24 major American television crews pointing at the canoe. That was the success of the campaign. And we actually killed a 17 billion dollar contract," he recalled.

He is married to Danielle O'Bomsawin Mukash, an Abenaki of Odanak with whom he has two children, Pakesso and Natasia Mukash.

Mukash is also known as an accomplished fiddle musician.

Today, he lives in his native Whapmagoostui, with a population of less than 1,000.

Watch an extended interview with Matthew Mukash.


Grand Council of the Cree