The two opinion pieces on this page were written by Samson Sandy, who is the information officer of the Cree Health and Social Services Board. We welcome opinion pieces from all our readers, and we strive to reflect all views in our pages.

Searching for a common crossroad

The Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay has been in existence for some years now.

The network has progressed in many directions and various services and programs are provided by dedicated professionals with diverse backgrounds and special skills.

Many other essential services are provided by native and non-professional people who do not necessarily have an extensive academic background, but who nonetheless contribute to the availability and quality of health and social services for the Crees of our region.

The people for whom these services have been created are the Crees of James Bay. Their culture, values and spirituality are the basis of their existence—their mentality and and their reason for living.

These realities should betaken into account by social services and when treating or counselling native people.

Since there are Cree people working in health and social services, they can be a window through which the quality of health and social services can be determined and evaluated.

It is imperative that there exist a cooperative effort between non-native and native people who work within this organization. To do this, we must put aside all discordant idiosyncracies and other premeditated prejudices toward our fellow employees. The burden of prejudice clouds our ability to reason, to communicate, to forego our social misconceptions and make health and social services to the Crees a commitment as well as an opportunity for personal advancement and job satisfaction.

So what must we as employees of the Cree Health Board do to provide realistic services to the Crees?

I am convinced that we must change our attitudes towards each other as individuals, classes or race groups.

We must accept the fact that we have to work toward a common good and leave our often preconceived notions of non-acceptance aside, and perform our duties to the best of our abilities.

Inevitably, we must realize that we have the freedom to change our environment if we are not satisfied with our working conditions or the performance of management.

We are not infallible. We can be replaced by other dedicated people if that is what is required to catapult us out of our egotistical doldrums.

But the issue, which remains in limbo, is whether as individuals or collectively we can start to search for an enlightened horizon—a common crossroad.

Self-help programs

There are Cree people in some Cree communities who have for many years depended on their families, professionals and others to solve their problems for them. I think some of us have been in this predicament at one time or another. Most of these people come from socially and economically dysfunctional families.

In retrospect, we have always expected that professionals from the South would come swooping into our communities and solve our personal, social and political shortcomings immediately.

We must all admit that whitewash solutions are not the answer to our problems. We have been accustomed to accept patchwork and other inefficient strategies, to plan our lives and future ambitions.

Today, our Cree societies have become more complex. Our infrastructures are all preplanned, and our modes of living are a mixture of an alien society and the Cree way of living.

The challenge for us now is to renew our energies toward a more traditional, spiritual and sympathetic social infrastructure in our communities.

Social Services planning must begin with helping the Crees help themselves. Self-help groups must include men’s associations and youth groups, as well as women’s associations and family groups.

These groups would also be expected to help out in bringing under privileged youth and families together for self-help therapy sessions.

Social Services workers should consult as a resource the Human Resource Program, AVAC, c/o Box 100, Hobbema, Alberta, TOC 1 NO (403) 585-3830.

The consultants are Cecil Nepoose and Francis Tootoosis.

The AVAC program could serve as a platform for all counselling programs among the different gropus. These counselling programs should include:

Traditional and contemporary personal and family counselling;

Traditional and contemporary parental skills counselling;

Management of financial services;

Continuing education for personal and family growth;

The Cree way of dealing with child neglect and abuse, treatment and counselling.

If my memory serves me correctly, the elders of our respective communities have been asking for these kinds of programs for some time.

It is time for us to renew our planning strategies to make these hopes and aspirations a reality.