After a hard-won battle we now have Matthew Mukash as our new Grand Chief. Many things were said during the campaign. Many things were implied. Some were on the mark and some were way off. People were hurt. People were confused. The people finally made a choice. We now have to live with that choice for the next four years. We will see.
People always pin their greatest hopes on a new leader. He or she is like a blank canvas, waiting to be painted with our fervent imagination. People will expect great things. Inevitably, people will be disappointed. It is normal. No one can be all things to all people.
The important thing will be to keep working. Everyone will have their role to play. We have to keep working towards a healthy Cree Nation. It is our hope here at the Nation that a new Cree government, with full democratic legitimacy, will emerge. One that is farther along towards full sovereignty. That means that the coming negotiations with the federal government must be conducted in open and transparent fashion, with wide input from the people of Eeyou Istchee.
We are not asking for much. All we are asking is that every Cree has a full opportunity to participate in the running of the Nation.
It is not enough that the people are invited once a year to an annual general assembly. It is not good enough that the most important subjects at these assemblies are scheduled for the very end, when there’s no time left and people need to catch a plane, leaving the real decisions to be made among the few and the powerful.
It is not good enough that when resolutions are passed at general assemblies, they are ignored if they don’t jibe with the Grand Chief and his group of cronies. It is not enough that people are expected to make a snap decision because of some deadline that has been artificially imposed on them. Much has changed in the 30 years since modern politics came to Eeyou Istchee. It is time for our government systems to evolve as well.
Besides shaking Matthew’s hand to congratulate him, I’m sure many people are telling him what they expect from him for the next four years. Well, let us get our two cents in. We’re hoping for some reconciliation in the Cree Nation. We will need healing. Even this election as with the last election shows how divided our people are. It is as if there has been no attempt in the past few years to unite us again. Matthew Mukash must extend his hand to people who opposed him in an attempt to find middle ground.
On the other side, people who voted for another candidate cannot sit on their hands. Just because your guy didn’t get in is no reason to shut yourself down. Everyone must do their part to create stronger Nation. We have to keep going. We have to keep going towards a Cree constitution and a Cree government that responds to the people.
We’re not asking for much. Just a chance for the Crees. And a chance to make a difference. We will see.