Statement by Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come on the passing of Albert Diamond
On Behalf of the Cree Nation of Eeyou Ischtee I would like to to express my condolences to the family of our dear friend and colleague, Albert Diamond. Albert left us suddenly on September 9, 2009.This is a great loss for the Cree Nation. Albert was truly one of the great Cree leaders. He was respected and admired in the Cree Nation, and throughout Canada, for his numerous skills in finance and economic development.
Albert was the son of a Cree Chief and Cree hunter. The late Chief Malcolm Diamond was very proud of Albert and his accomplishments and achievements.
Albert began his working life as a young Band Manager for the Waskaganish First Nation in the 1970’s. Albert worked hard to alleviate the poverty he saw in Waskaganish. He was one of the builders of Waskaganish and helped revive and propel the community to what it is today.
Albert was asked by his brother, Grand Chief Billy Diamond, to come and work for the Grand Council of the Crees while in his second year of University. He became the first Treasurer of the Grand Council of the Crees in 1975 and in this role was the first to begin the process of changing the relationship between the Crees and the Department of Indian Affairs, ironically the first step involved negotiating Canada’s terms of support for the Grand Council.
He was deeply involved in the negotiations of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. He also acted as a translator and was instrumental in helping the Cree elders to understand the purpose and nature of the legal proceedings and negotiations. Albert’s communication skills in turn helped in explaining the terms of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement to the Cree People, which was an important factor in its acceptance by the people. It is his work at the Grand Council of the Crees that earned him his reputation as one of the Cree leaders and one of the builders of the modern Cree Nation as we know it today.
He was the first Chairman of the Cree Board of Compensation and in his expert efforts proved to the Canadian establishment of the time that Aboriginal People could manage large amounts of financial resources rather than having them held in trust by the Federal Government. This will be one of Albert’s greatest legacies for the Cree Nation and for Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.
Creeco, a Cree holding company of other Cree enterprises, was setup under his leadership and it now provides many job and business opportunities for Crees and is a benefit to the non-native community as well. He was president of Cree Construction Company in its early years and helped secure an important role for Crees in the development of the James Bay Territory.
He became President of Air Creebec 20 years ago . His first task was to improve the regularity and safety of the air transport service to remote Cree communities and he expanded it into a profitable airline which all Crees are proud to call their national airline. Many young Crees were inspired by the existence of Air Creebec to pursue careers in the airline industry.
He was appointed by the Grand Council of the Crees, and recently appointed Vice Chairman, to serve on the Cree Nation Trust, the entity established to manage, invest and protect the financial resources acquired by the Cree Nation through the New Relationship Agreement with Canada.
Albert was very much involved in Economic Development for Aboriginal peoples. He was involved with Federal Government through its Aboriginal Business Canada agency for several years. He also volunteered his skills to help many Aboriginal organizations across the country working for the betterment of Aboriginal peoples.
He inspired many young Crees to get involved in financial administration and related fields. Many young Crees admired him and he has become a role model for the coming generations of Crees and indeed all Aboriginal Peoples.
Albert will be sadly missed by all who knew him. He will not be forgotten for he has left a lasting impression.
A 30 minute video of Albert may be viewed here: http://www.resourceschannel.com/video/Portrait-AlbertDiamondmeta.wvx