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Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Stan Louttit

Thursday January 9, 2014
Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Stan Louttit

As he continues a legal battle with the federal and provincial governments, and a personal battle with cancer, Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Stan Louttit is Wawatay’s Male Newsmaker of the Year.

Louttit’s battle with cancer was already public when 2013 rolled around, but he continued to update readers and community members throughout the year on his health status.

In February, Louttit told Wawatay News he had begun chemotherapy treatment in Kingston, and that he would receive the treatment every two weeks.

Then in June, he said a CT scan was performed and it showed the tumour had not changed in size. But he saw this as a positive.

“I would’ve liked to have heard that this was going smaller and the chemo is diminishing it but that’s not the case,” he said at the time. “But that’s fine. As long as it’s not growing or getting any worse.”

Louttit said he suffered from the side effects of fatigue and weight loss, having lost close to 70 pounds at the time.

Recently, he told Wawatay News that he had to stop chemotherapy in October because the surgical wound a year prior did not heal properly. In December he learned there was improvement.

Despite his health issues, Louttit continued to function as the grand chief and served his people throughout the year.

As the spring thaw threatened to flood several James Bay communities and forced the evacuation of some Attawapiskat and Kashechewan residents, Louttit called on the federal and provincial governments to address the communities’ infrastructural problems.

He also called on the governments to honour the treaty following the spring floods and after a CBC TV documentary compared the economic states of the Crees on the opposite coasts of James Bay.

Mushkegowuk hosted a treaty conference in July, where the actual Treaty 9 parchment was brought into Moose Factory.

Louttit gave a presentation on the history of the treaty signing and announced that Mushkegowuk had filed the paperwork to begin a lawsuit against the Canadian and provincial governments.

A statement of claim sent to the Ontario Superior Court by Mushkegowuk Council asserts that the governments of Ontario and Canada have “no power or right under Treaty 9 to unilaterally restrict or extinguish” the harvesting rights of the Mushkegowuk people by authorizing resource companies to develop on their traditional territory.

The diary of one of the 1905 treaty commissioners is the basis of the lawsuit.

In September, Louttit announced that Mushkegowuk was launching a ‘People’s Inquiry’ into the suicide pandemic plaguing the James Bay communities. The announcement came after it received no financial support from the two levels of government.

So far, there have been hearings in Moose Cree, Missinabie, and Chapleau. Louttit said in a recent interview that more would be conducted in the James Bay communities once the winter road opens. Mushkegowuk is also planning a hearing in Taykwa Tagamou.

Once those are completed, Louttit said a second phase of the inquiry will begin in the summer months.

For all his work over the years, leaders in Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Fort Albany and Moose Cree First Nations honoured Louttit in separate ceremonies during the summer months.

As the New Year begins, Louttit is still serving as the grand chief, though he says he often works from home.

“I still provide input into the important issues and attend meetings whenever I can,” he said.
His health being public knowledge, many contact him to offer support and well wishes.

“I continue to get support from the community at large, not only in Mushkegowuk but across NAN as well,” he said.

As for his health concerns, he takes it one day at a time.

“I can’t look six months into the future. It’s a daily struggle,” he said. “But I’m confident things will get better in the future.”

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