As this issue of the Nation reaches the Cree communities in the North, many schools will have already held their graduation ceremonies. I would like to add my heartfelt salute to a job well done by all our graduates.

It has been a tough journey. Some parents might disagree, arguing it was harder in their day.

Some parents may have attended residential schools. It was a difficult situation being away from home and family for so long. Others may have been the ones to attend the newly opened Cree School Board schools in the 1970s. The Cree School Board was a new entity in those days and had to learn and develop an entire new system.

At times it was a hit-and-miss situation. Crees are still learning and developing that system even today. Indeed it is a learning process that will never end.

Just look at the phenomenal spread of computers in only a few short years and remember that your grandparents and many of your parents never used them when they were young. Now, however, you have instant access to an entire virtual world that provides vast resources of knowledge.

There are many who did not, or could not, go as far as you now have traveled. It’s an important symbol to don the caps and gowns before you march up to receive your high school, college, CEGER vocational or university diploma. You can be proud of yourselves and know that there are many out there who are just as proud of you and your accomplishments.

For some of you this has been a difficult road to travel. The legacies of the residential school system are still felt in later generations, with symptoms ranging from poverty, addictions, and uncertainty in the effort to conquer your own fears. You, however, have had the discipline to achieve a goal. This ceremony is your community’s way of acknowledging your effort and your achievement. It will be the first of many in the long life of opportunity that now awaits you.

You may have had friends who did not go this route and dropped out. You see them working at menial jobs, or they are perhaps on welfare looking at a grim future, while others can only concentrate on “having a good time.” They may have subjected you to peer pressure to join the “drop-out nation.”

That nation is a problem these days in the communities. Some students do not even bother to attend classes or skip out on such a regular basis that getting a diploma is next to impossible. It is something that will have to be dealt with by more than just the Cree School Board. Perhaps one of you will come up with a solution. The fact that you didn’t join the drop-out nation is evidence of your determination and courage.

If you are in high school you may leave the community to go on to higher levels of education. You are on your way to a better life that will give you a vast array of options to pursue.

So I congratulate you on having had the foresight to earn a diploma and I wish you all the best of success in your future endeavors.