Keynote Address

Abel BosumAbel Bosum,
Grand Chief/Chairman
Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)/ Cree Nation Government

After leaving the La Tuque Indian Residential School, and after working in underground mines in the Chibougamau area, Abel Bosum began his serious career and life’s work by working for the Grand Council of the Crees of Québec in 1978 where he occupied numerous roles in the area of economic development.

From 1984 to 1998, Abel Bosum occupied the key leadership role of the Ouje-Bougoumou Cree Nation, his home community, which had been displaced numerous times in order to accommodate the mining industry.  He coordinated and supervised legal and historical research, supervised and conducted successful negotiations leading to major agreements with both Québec and Canada related to the establishment of a permanent village for the Crees of Ouje-Bougoumou.  He then led the community in the planning and construction of a unique new village, which is noted for its culturally-based architecture, a locally developed and self-sufficient housing program and a village-wide alternative energy system.  Ouje-Bougoumou has received significant national and international recognition for its community development achievements including awards from the United Nations, participation in the World Fair, Expo 2000, and has been the subject of numerous documentaries, newspaper and magazine articles highlighting the community’s achievements and Abel Bosum’s leadership.

From 1999 to 2017 Abel Bosum served the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) as Negotiator for Cree-Québec relations.  In that capacity, he represented the Cree Nation in historic negotiations which put the relationship between the Cree Nation and the Province of Québec on a new footing and laid the foundation for the long-term positive development of the Cree communities.  This milestone New Relationship Agreement between the Cree Nation and the Government of Québec (“Paix des Braves”), signed in 2002, has established a new benchmark for the resolution of conflicts between aboriginal nations and governments.

Building on the foundation laid by the “Paix des Braves”, the Cree Nation undertook equally ground-breaking negotiations with Québec in the area of governance.  Abel Bosum led negotiations aimed at providing a much more significant role for the Cree Nation in the governance of the entire northern region of Québec while, at the same time, establishing a unique regional government comprised of representatives of Cree and non-Indigenous communities in the region. The Cree-Québec Governance Agreement has resulted in greater jurisdiction of the Cree Nation over its traditional territory while providing a voice for all residents of the territory.

Abel has also led major negotiations on behalf of the Cree Nation leading to agreements in the area of health and social services, forestry and mining.

Abel Bosum has also served as President of the Aanischaaukamikw Foundation, a not-for-profit, registered charitable organization.  The Foundation raised $25.6 million from Cree and non-Cree governments, corporate partners, private foundations and individuals to develop, design and construct the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute—an award-winning museum and cultural center.  The Foundation continues to support the Cree Cultural Institute and is working to broaden the impact of philanthropy in Eeyou Istchee.

In 1998, Abel Bosum was honored as a recipient of Canada’s National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the category of Community Development for his work with Ouje-Bougoumou.

In recognition of his achievements in working tirelessly to promote the rights of his Cree Nation and for his achievements in devising creative agreements which also benefitted the non-Cree residents of the territory as well as Québec generally, in June 2016, Abel Bosum had conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Civil Law, Honoris Causa, from Bishop’s University in Québec.

In recognition of his extensive skills and talents in the areas of community development, negotiations and political strategy development, the people of the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee, in 2017, elected Abel Bosum to serve as their Grand Chief, the highest elected position in the Cree Nation.

Abel Bosum and his wife Sophie have four children and numerous grandchildren.  When the opportunity presents itself, Abel’s greatest joy is to take his family to their cabin on the Ouje-Bougoumou traditional territory.