In the Cree language: Eeyou Istchee refers to "the land of the people."
Traditionally known as Eeyou Istchee, previously known as Rupert’s Land, and formally known as Eeyou Istchee James Bay Territory. The Cree People of the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Territory have occupied the territory for almost 6000 years. The Rupert River has one of the oldest dated human traces within the territory that is estimated to have been 5,500 years. Between 2,000 to 1,600 years ago, there was active settlement on Eeyou Istchee, and 1,600 years ago the “Shaptuan” made its appearance.
The Cree values and beliefs passed on from our ancestors are deeply rooted in our story telling, legends, knowledge and skills. We have lived off the lands hunting trapping and fishing within the territory respecting the animals and the lands that offers us life and tools for survival. Families depend on each other until this day through sharing, and helping one another to get by living off the harsh lands of Eeyou Istchee. The survival of the Cree’s within the territory is based on the knowledge and skills of the ancestors passed on from generations.
History of European Settlers
The Bay first came to the attention of the Europeans in 1610 when Henry Hudson set to explore an alternative route to Asia finding himself at the larger Bay that now bears his name Hudson Bay. Following is another explorer set to explore the extended and southern Bay that bears the name James Bay in honor of Thomas James in 1630-1631. Stories of the first European contacts with our Nation that have been past on for generations are still vivid among our elders.
History of the Hudson Bay Company
The Hudson Bay Company was co founded by the adventures Médard Chouart des Groseillers and Pierre-Esprit Radisson in 1670 and played a dynamic role in Eeyou Istchee that would change the life of the Cree’s in the Region.
Both were codependent on each other for beaver pelts and had established a relationship in order to prosper in the harsh lands of Eeyou Istchee.
- Cree’s gradually became dependent on the Hudson Bay Company for trading purposes where they traded beaver pelts in exchange for food and tools that made life increasingly easier.
- The Hudson Bay Company equally relied on the Cree’s for their extensive knowledge of the territory and survival skills out on the harsh lands.
The Hudson’s Bay trading post was first established in Fort Rupert/Washkaganesh in 1668 as one of the original locations of the Hudson Bay Company, Moose Factory Ontario 1673, and Fort Albany in 1679.
Other Hudson Bay Company trading posts eventually emerged in the James Bay, 1724 in Eastmain, 1803 at Fort George near Chisasibi, then 1813 at great Whale River.
Originally the Northwest Company established the first trading post at Old Factory Bay in 1804-1806 but burned down. It wasn’t until 1938 the Hudson Bay Company set up a post. Initially the Cree’s of Old Factory Bay would have had to travel to the trading post located in Eastmain to trade their beaver pelts.
History of the Cree Nation of Wemindji
The Cree Nation of Wemindji has a traditional settlement called Old Factory Bay that is 45km south of Wemindji. In Cree language it is called Paakumshumwashtikw referring to Old Factory Bay, which at one point was also known as "Nouveau-Comptoir".
In 1951“Old Factory Band” was established by the order of the federal government through Indian Affairs and was then relocated in 1959 to Wemindji because it had better ground to develop the community. In the 1960’s the majority of community members arrived and settled, and in 1961 the school was established following the clinic in 1962, than the establishment of the St. John Baptist Church in 1963.
The first chief of Old Factory was Chief Albert Gilpin 1930-1933, then John Georgekish 1933-1958. Followed by chiefs of the Cree Nation of Wemindji:
- Sam Visitor: 1958-1969
- John Mark: 1969-1972
- Fred Blackned: 1972-1978
- Walter Hughboy: 1978-1999
- Reggie Mark: 1999-2005
- Rodney Mark: 2005-2013
- Dennis Georgekish: 2013-present
Wemindji’s focus is to serve the community by delivering outstanding leadership and services that maintain and enrich the quality of life for the people and future generation.