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“The Voyage of the Odeyak”


“The Voyage of the Odeyak”

“We may have inherited this land from our ancestors, but we have also borrowed it from our children.”

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.

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

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 emailor call us at: 418-745-2444.

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