While listening to earnest debates on whether or not we are Eeyou or Eenou at the Annual General Assemblies over the past three decades, I have often wondered whether or not we would ever settle on anything. Sure, we compromise often, but when do we really get to see something chewable, like say… Residential School Syndrome.
I’ve heard, through hearsay, the ever-dependable grapevine and local gossip sources (now called chat rooms), that we had all of 24 hours to option out of the residential school settlement plan. What? One day to decide on a lifetime of regrets (for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry, it’s part of the syndrome that is affecting you and that some parts of your life has been erased from your conscious memory over the years) and to finally come through with some payoff, big time.
Don’t get me wrong, I lived right beside three residential schools in my lifetime and attended the same classes alongside many people for over a decade, but I, as many others, did not live in the actual residence while getting my education. No, we lived outside of the residential school system.
It’s like saying that we attended Folsom Prison School, but were free to roam about after hours unlike the other inmates, who stayed there from dusk to dawn and then went to school during the day. It may be a harsh way to put it, but then, who didn’t have a hard time in school in those days? I just feel that this is the way that the feds, schools and churches are telling us that they cannot afford to pay back the full price of justice.
Back to the AGMs… perhaps some jazz and excitement could be put into the yearly get-together. In general, meetings are boring unless you happen to be a real crowd pleaser with your witty-yet-wise stories (while managing to get what you want, like say a few million in cash for symbolic relationship deals, where a few benefit in the short term and none in the long term). Perhaps to ease the yawning and constant coffee drinking, a mime could be brought in to translate in body language what is being said. How about a storyteller who takes less than five minutes? Even better, opinions from Cree experts from each community to partake in debate over issues, instead of an arbitrary monologue from the same representative year after year.
My favourite participants in the meetings are elders. For some reason, they have endless patience and are there to support us. I noticed that the elders always attend faithfully and help the nation grow in the right direction. This is true for nearly all Cree meetings.
It’s funny that the youth, who represent 60-70 per cent of our population, never attend the local meetings, where in turn, important decisions are made on what topics are brought up at bigger regional meetings. Yet it is always the youth who say they are not represented.
Guess what, it starts at the local general meetings. That’s where the stuff comes from. So if the young’uns were to actually attend local meetings, their issues would be supported all the way to the top of the political food chain.
So go to meetings, all of them, and exercise your right to vote on important issues. Perhaps at one AGA, your voices won’t just be heard, but acted upon, and resolutions may actually be able to be carried out before you outgrow your needs.