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Tribute to Elder Robbie Matthew: Celebrating the legacy of a Spiritual Guide and Cultural Guardian


Elder Robbie Matthew – Sunrise September 3, 1934/Sunset June 21, 2023 (National Indigenous Peoples Day) 

Today the Cree Nation mourns the loss on Wednesday, June 21, 2023 of its greatest spiritual guide, most tireless cultural advocate and guardian, and wisest mentor to generations of Cree leaders. Elder Robbie Matthew leaves our nation and our institution a legacy of knowledge, advocacy, and deep love for our peoples and the land.



Together with his late wife Sally, Elder Robbie Matthew dedicated his life to maintaining, enhancing and transmitting Cree culture, knowledge and language. With a deep respect for the teachings of the ancestors and a life firmly rooted in Indoh-hoon, Elder Robbie Matthew’s contributions to the wellbeing of Eeyouch will echo for generations to come.


Nishiiyuu Council of Elders
Meeting of the Nishiiyuu Council of Elders, Gatineau, Quebec Date: March 30 , 2022
Photo credit: Julianna Snowboy

"I want to talk about everything on this earth. Everything which Eeyou uses. Everything that grows. What the Eeyou knew and thought, was there was life in everything…Wherever we look we see life. That’s what Eeyou talks about. That’s where Eeyou taught himself. To get his life from the earth…The Ancestors had knowledge. There were a lot of teachings they passed from generation to generation. That is what we are using now, to watch our time on this earth. That is what has to be taught, to pass down to the next generation, so they can walk in truth on this earth with the teachings of the Ancestors…We should be thankful and happy we still see this. We have to hold on to what is left. We have to leave something for the coming generations. Let’s remember them like our Ancestors remembered us. Life passed from generation to generation. – Robbie Matthew, 1994 quoted in The Nation

Robbie Matthew

"We, as a nation, are just starting to get back to our roots and knowing our legends through storytelling shared by our Elders. We are beginning our journey of decolonization and returning to our grassroots that have been patiently waiting for our return." – Elder Robbie Matthew 

Committed defender of Eeyou rights and homeland

A committed defender of Eeyou rights and homeland, Elder Robbie Matthew has been recognized and honored both locally and internationally. He will continue to be an example of what it means to lead with love and humility, while standing strong and speaking one’s truth. He carried his message of empowerment, compassion, and justice everywhere he went, from Chisasibi, to New York, Geneva and New Zealand. Honored by UNESCO and inducted into the International Indigenous Circle of Spiritual Elders, Robbie artfully showed the world what Eeyou diplomacy truly is.

Robbie Matthew

"Don’t hesitate. Because our Creator is on our side. He made us what we are today. We were brought here by the power of the Great Spirit, working side by side with Nishiiyuu. Don’t worry what the tomorrow will bring. This is what we were taught. Idle no more. We should start now." – Robbie Matthew, quoted by Nishiiyuu ways

An inspiration for new generations

But, it was his community and nation that occupied the most cherished place in his heart. Elder Matthew and his wife Sally, have counselled countless youth and families over the years, taking them on the land and teaching them the Nishiiyuu ways. The Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) has had the great honor and fortune to have them guide our organization since the late 1990s when they were appointed to the Council of Chishâyîyû. Elder Robbie Matthew was the chief advocate for the development of the Nishîyû Miyupimâtisîun Department, which he guided over the years. Honored over his lifetime and more recently by the CBHSSJB at a ceremony in 2022, Robbie Matthew will forever be remembered for the way he inspired new generations and touched the soul of everyone that knew him.  

The Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay extends it deepest condolence to Elder Robbie Matthew’s family and loved ones. His journey into the spirit world marks a new beginning in the circle of life and is a reminder of the sacredness of human existence, just like Robbie taught us.  

We will surely and dearly miss his guidance and presence. We wish him a good journey! 

Elder Robbie Matthew – Sunrise September 3, 1934/Sunset June 21, 2023 (National Indigenous Peoples Day) 

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