Louise Abbott - writer, photographer, and filmmaker - has devoted most of her career to documenting the history and contemporary life of indigenous communities. Indeed, she wrote and directed the first film on the history of the Inuit of Nunavik. Her latest book Eeyou Istchee: Land of the Cree/Terre des Cris, a comprehensive photo-essay about the Cree of eastern James Bay, was produced in collaboration with her husband, Niels Jensen, well-known cabinetmaker and photographer.
From the very beginning, Eeyou Istchee takes readers on an adventure into the land of the Cree. With over 200 striking photographs, the book offers reader hours of pleasure and delight. Whether you read Eeyou Istchee from cover to cover or simple open it at random, both the black and white archival pictures and the colorful modern photographs offer a glimpse of the Cree way of life : the caribou hunt, fishing, winter walks, children's activities, flora and fauna, and portraits of the elders. Some of the landscapes, taken by award-winning photographers Abbott and Jensen, look like actual paintings. The trilingual text - written in English, French, and Cree - adds to the book's charm.
Although the once-Nomadic Cree now live in modern communities, the authors show, through stunning photographs, mini-essays, and detailed captions, how the Cree identify with their natural habitat and traditions; a recurring theme throughout the book. Being on the land and in the bush enables the Cree to spiritually reconnect with their ancestors. As Bradley Georgekish of Wemindji points out: "The old ways keep us balanced … They show us where we've been, and we need to know where we've been to know who we are and where we're going."
Having spent extensive periods of time with the James Bay Cree, Abbott and Jensen mostly based their text on firsthand observations and personal interviews. A selected bibliography of books and websites for further reading and research is included.
Published by the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association (COTA) to promote tourism in Eeyou Istchee (Cree for "Land of the Cree") and to encourage non-native people to learn about their values and their way of life, the book takes a unique look at Eeyouch (Cree for the inhabitants of Eeyou Istchee).
Carol Katz is an emerging writer living in Montreal.