Abel Bosum

In just 10 years, Chief Abel Bosum led the forgotten Crees of Oujé-Bougoumou, who were living in tar-paper shacks on sides of the remote highways in Quebec, to become a community that is a model for the world. Oujé-Bougoumou was a community in despair – forgotten by the James Bay Agreement and pushed aside by the forestry and mining operations in their traditional territory. But guided by Chief Bosum’s leadership, this dispirited and dispossessed community secured a land base, raised $45 million, and built a village that earned international praise. The Oujé-Bougoumou Cree Nation would receive two awards from the United Nations: the “We the Peoples: 50 Communities” award that identified it as a community that best represents the goals of the UN, specifically in the category of environment and sustainable development; and the Best Designation citation from Habitat II, a UN conference on urban dwelling. Chief Bosum himself would be recognized as a Global Citizen, another United Nations award. Throughout it all, Chief Bosum remained focused on the Cree philosophy of respect for the Elders, conservation, self sufficiency, equality and community living. Describing the success of the Oujé-Bougoumou Cree Nation in 1995, the then Minister of Indian Affairs, Ron Irwin, said that “if we could duplicate that in the 605 First Nations across Canada, [our] problems would be solved.”