Whatever else one might say about Irene Neeposh’s run for chief in Waswanipi’s election on August 31, few would say the candidate lacks ideas for ways to help and improve her community.
Neeposh spoke with the Nation recently about why she believes she is the right woman for the job.
Neeposh emphasizes her conviction that she is the ideal candidate to lead the community not only for her intense interest in helping the people of Waswanipi but also for her goal-oriented approach to ensuring that community needs are met in a timely manner.
She has worked in regional politics and administration for much of her career before her current position as a student affairs technician for the Cree School Board. With her background in management, Neeposh is no stranger to organization and structure. Those are two elements Neeposh says would play a major role in a new band council administration should she become Chief.
Working with the ultimate goal of self-governance in mind, Neeposh said that she would work to ensure that the people of Waswanipi gain a real voice – and that these voices are heard.
“My approach to ensuring that the people have a voice in the development of the community is by allowing them to be part of the development and the decision making. This is my promise and what I have been taught,” said Neeposh.
As an example she talked of a task force that would be built through community needs. If there were specific issues such as alcohol or drugs that members felt were becoming too prevalent in the community, the Band Council could set up a specific task force devoted to that issue to look at possible solutions. Community members would be encouraged and welcomed to become part of that task force and the group would have to work within a specific time frame to propose their solutions. These ideas would then be examined as to feasibility and so forth. Then the accepted solutions would be broken down into realistic steps so that the community would then have a direction to solve the issue.
In essence, Neeposh says with her at the helm it would mean that the community would have a great deal of focus. This would allow Waswanipi to hone in on specific issues to achieve goal-oriented solutions in a timely fashion so that the community’s needs are met.
“We have been having a lot of budget problems here in Waswanipi like many other communities. I think the real problem stems from a lack of focus. I think we can settle a lot of our financial problems if we have a focus because we will have a plan in place. If we stick to it and it is developed by the people, it is easier to keep them focused as well,” said Neeposh.
In terms of stimulating the local economy, Neeposh’s approach would be to start up small projects so every individual within the community has an opportunity to submit their ideas and get the support that they need. A panel could choose individual projects.
She gave the example of an individual with no administrative or accounting skills that would like to start up a taxi service. With a little bit of assistance and mentoring to learn the basic books, that individual could quickly become self employed and contributing to the community and that individual would become empowered.
Neeposh spoke of a similar process for larger projects that could be selected by the panel whereby the community could select different businesses that they would like to see developed within the community. Once selected, the process would be under the wing of the band and provided with assistance, financial or otherwise until such time as they have paid back their loan and are up and running. The returned funding could then be pooled into another project.
On a higher level, the idea is to get Waswanipi’s people to move away from living paycheck to paycheck, empowered to move toward self-governance. Providing financial counseling within the community for anyone who desires it is another support that Neeposh would like to provide.
The idea of empowering individuals is carried out all the way through Neeposh’s campaign and extends schools as well. She would like to see individual students and teachers recognized for good attendance to encourage better participation within the school system.
In terms of her personal life, the single mother of three said that her family will always come first but should she to take on the role of Chief, Neeposh said that she would hire a full time nanny to ensure that her own children have the necessary stability so that she can focus on serving her people.