Former AFN national chief and Cree grand chief speaks out against vaccine

“I’d rather rely on factual, scientific and medical advice,” replies chief of Mistissini who got the shot this week


A former AFN national chief and grand chief of the Crees in Quebec has gone to social media condemning the use of the Moderna vaccine in his community.

The Cree Nation of Mistissini began vaccinating their residents this week with 1,200 initial doses of the vaccine.

Matthew Coon Come, who led the Grand Council of the Crees for 20 years, feels it is wrong that citizens of the community of almost 4,000 people were not asked what they thought of the decision to vaccinate.

His hometown was chosen to be the first to vaccinate because of its large population, it’s close proximity to red zones like the Lac St-Jean area and because it has an elders’ long-term care facility.

“The Cree Leadership seems to think they know what is best for us. Mistissini is now the experimental rats of this experimental vaccine,” Coon Come wrote on social media. The post was shared close to 150 times.

Though Coon Come’s comments prompted a lengthy online discussion, with some criticizing him for spreading misinformation, Moderna says the vaccine was tested on humans.

Grand Chief Abel Bosum gets his temperature taken when he arrives to observe injections of the Moderna vaccine. Bosum will get vaccinated when the vaccine comes to his home community of Ouje-Bougoumou next week. Photo courtesy: Brendan Forward.

It has been approved for use by independent health bodies as well as other countries around the world. Health Canada approved it on Dec. 23, 2020.

The vaccine works by teaching a person’s cells how to produce a protein that will trigger an immune response to COVID-19, without using the live virus. This then allows the body to generate antibodies that will help fight off infection.

Health Canada says, in general, the side effects are mild or moderate and are common side effects to all vaccines such as pain at the site of injection, chills and feeling feverish.

They say the minor side effects do not pose a health risk but there are rare cases of severe allergic reactions and people should speak to a health professional about allergies or serious health conditions before receiving the vaccine.


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Cree Nation in Quebec vaccinates first elders and is ready to rollout more


The current grand chief of the Quebec Crees, Abel Bosum was in Mistissini for the first vaccinations.

He says he won’t be telling people to get vaccinated but he and his family will get the shot when it comes to his home community of Ouje-Bougoumou.

On Thursday, a resident of the Ouje-Bougoumou Cree Nation announced on social media that he has contracted COVID-19.

In his post, Jeremy Polson described being really sick one night earlier in the week and went to get a COVID-19 test which came back positive.

“Picture the worst cold or flu you’ve had…and times that by 4-5 times,” Polson posted and urged anyone that came into contact with him to get tested.

Bosum says getting the vaccine is a choice but so far around 400 people in Mistissini have been administered the Moderna shot and vaccinations are going well despite Coon Come’s comments on social media.

“Generally speaking people are coming out now getting the facts about the vaccine and are participating. That was good news to hear from public health and from the chief of Mistissini,” Bosum told APTN.

Thomas Neeposh is the chief of Mistissini and was one of the first people to receive the vaccine.

He experienced no side effects and hopes Coon Come’s remarks won’t discourage people from vaccination.

“I know people are entitled to their own opinion…I’d rather rely on factual, scientific and medical advice,” Neeposh says. “We will encourage people to take the vaccine because it’s for their safety and health.”

The remaining 12,000 doses promised to the Crees will arrive in the territory in the coming days. Their plan is to vaccinate the entire population, 18 years and older, for anyone that wants it.

Bosum says he will be the first in line when the vaccine comes to his community and he looks forward to the days when we can all live a normal life again.

Reporter / Ottawa

Originally from the Cree Nation of Chisasibi on the eastern coast of James Bay, Quebec, Jamie has lived in Ottawa since 2015. Trained in journalism at Carleton University, he has worked as a freelance print journalist and as a writer/researcher for the Cree unit of CBC North out of Montreal. Jamie was hired as the reporter/correspondent for the Ottawa bureau in October 2019.