On March 30, 2022, The Nishîyû Council of Elders (NCOE) had their quarterly meeting in Gatineau, Quebec. During their meeting, they honoured Elder Robbie Matthew for his lifetime achievements and contributions to Eeyou Istchee.
The Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay takes this opportunity to pay tribute to Elder Robbie Matthew Sr. and his late wife Sally for their lifetime contributions to our Miyupimâtisîun in Eeyou Istchee. For at least three decades, the Cree Nation has recognized Elder Robbie Matthew and his wife Sally, who passed away in 2010, as patriarch and matriarch. Our organization has the honour to be guided by their wisdom, love and humility.
Robbie Matthew through the years
CBHSSJB Chairperson Mr. Bertie Wapachee was present at the NCOE meeting in Gatineau. “As the CBHSSJB Chairperson and in other roles, I’ve had the privilege to work with Elder Robbie Matthew and his late wife Sally. Last week, I was given the highest honour to place the Mîkun Ashtûtin (headdress) on the head of one of my greatest mentors. On behalf of the CBHSSJB, we acknowledge the contributions of Elder Robbie and his wife to our culture, language, health and social well-being.” -- Bertie Wapachee
Born in 1934 and now 87 years old, Robbie Matthew has dedicated his life to protecting and strengthening the Cree way of life. He grew up and spent much of his adult life on the land. He married Sally in 1957. Robbie and Sally influenced generations of youth to trust and believe in their own culture. Over several decades, as part of Cree Programs for the Cree School Board, the couple brought youth to the trap line to teach them traditional skills.
In the 1980s and 90s, Robbie and Sally were often invited to international gatherings in defense of Indigenous rights, environmental protection, youth empowerment and spirituality. In 1991, Robbie was invited to New York City as part of the campaign against the Great Whale River Project. He addressed United Nations gatherings in Switzerland and Hungary, and was honoured by UNESCO. During a visit to New Zealand in 1993, Robbie was inducted into the International Indigenous Circle of Spiritual Elders.
Robbie and Sally have been recognized Elders since the 1990s, when they were both appointed to the Executive of the Regional Council of Elders (now Nishiiyuu Council of Elders – NCOE). Robbie has been a member of the Council of Chishâyîyû of the CBHSSJB since 2007. The Council guided the development of the Nishîyû Miyupimâtisîun Department, which was founded in 2015 to develop traditional healing pathways and strengthen cultural safety in all aspects of Cree Health Board services.
After Sally passed away in 2010, Robbie continues to share his knowledge and guidance across generations in meetings, consultations, radio interviews and videos. He was honoured by the Grand Council in 2012 and 2018 for his lifetime contributions to language and culture.
“Truth has power, it has the ability to touch the soul. Robbie is an example of what it means to have courage and to always speak the truth with love and humility. He also taught us that our spirits know what path we are to take, that we must trust in that. He shows us that our journeys are so much more than our accomplishments and more about how we love and treat each other.” - Members of the Nishîyû team