For the second year in a row, hundreds of Crees and partners of the Cree world descended upon Mont Tremblant for a massive golf benefit to raise funds for the Cree Nation Achievement Foundation.

Setting off in teams of four, on August 26, Crees and various sponsors and other business partners tackled either Le Géant or Le Diable golf courses for a massive tournament and then later congregated for a world-class-style gala dinner at the Mont Tremblant convention centre.

At the event, hosted by Native comedian and activist Don Burnstick, it was announced that between the day and evening festivities that included the tournament, gala and auctions at the gala, a total of $60,249 was raised for the new foundation.

While the weather held up for an all-out cloudless day of golfing with the likes of former hockey giants Marcel Dionne and Stan Jonathan, the evening entertainment proved just as gratifying.

Burnstick, known for his distinctly Native jokes, kept the crowd roaring all night.

“Everybody is trying to be like Natives these days. You’ve got Arnold Schwarzenegger who had two different women giving birth to his kids two days apart from each other, Brad Pitt who has six kids with Angelina Jolie and only three of them are his and Lindsay Lohan who’s been to rehab five times and is still drinking,” said Burnstick.

On the more serious side, Eddie Diamond of the Grand Council of the Crees/ Cree Regional Authority was happy to report to the Nation that a lot of progress had been made in terms of laying all of the groundwork for the Cree Nation Achievement Awards Foundation.

“Right now we are about two-three weeks away from getting the whole thing incorporated. At the moment we are also looking for a Cree name to give the foundation to make the whole thing unique,” said Diamond.

He delighted in pointing out exactly how much steam the foundation had gained over the last 12 months as several other charitable organizations are looking to partner up with the new Cree Foundation to help support children succeed in athletics.

At the same time, the foundation is gearing up to have its first gala awards celebration in 2012 that will recognize Crees in a variety of fields that range from volunteerism to academics to corporate citizenship to community and cultural contributions.

According to Diamond, this organization won’t just be about recognizing political figures but the little guys who have given their all at whatever their field may be.

Because of the good work that this organization will be doing in the coming years, the day’s participants were all thrilled to be part of such an event and happy to state why they had taken their time to show their support.

“This is a very important cause. We are looking at different ways to celebrate achievement, volunteerism and reaching out to the youth and so I think that those are all very worthy causes,” said Quebec’s Minister Responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Geoffrey Kelley.

Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Chief Ghislain Picard was also out on the links to benefit the Crees and just as proud to be celebrating Cree successes at night.

“It is important to be able to support these kinds of initiatives and anything that will help to promote and support our communities for our young people. Whenever I hear about events like this, I always make it a point to be there if it is possible for me,” said Picard.

A newly svelte Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff was also feeling the jubilant vibe in the room as much as he was thrilled about the success of the event.

“It’s an awesome event because we are with all of our partners in the Cree world and people are contributing to something that we are going to be doing in the Cree nation to recognize people officially for their achievements,” said Iserhoff.

Former Boston Bruins great Stan Jonathan spoke at the gala about his life story in hockey and what it was like to rise as a hockey star from a reserve family of 14 children. He joked during his speech that he learned to fight at home, just trying to get a seat at the dinner table.

In reality, Jonathan rose as a hockey star during a time when Aboriginal players were not as celebrated as they are today since the hockey world was a lot more racist back in the mid-’70s.

Of course, he said, an organization like the ones the Crees are forming could have helped him a great deal back then, but they didn’t exist. At the same time his message to the Cree nation was to encourage the youth as much as possible and support them in their dreams whatever they may be, particularly when it comes to those youth leaving the reserve as this was something he understood deeply. He remarked that a lot of kids will quit and come back home if they don’t get adequate support.

“The biggest experience I’ve had that I share with Cree kids nowadays is that if they get a chance to go out there and play and set some goals for themselves, there are some unbelievable hockey players from all of our different nations.

“Kids, all kids, just need to go out and show that they can play, it doesn’t have to be hockey but whatever they are good at, they just need to get out and do it,” said Jonathan.
Ed Note: Before anyone talks I will admit publically that I went beyond what most men would do to win a prize at this event. When prizes were offered at the gala for various actions or things I responded in the best way I knew how. For an opportunity to access an indoor golf driving range I was the first to respond to the criteria of having a hickey. I did not have one when they called for it but fortunately my wife Amy helped me out and some of the crowd got to see a hickey happening before their eyes. The Emcees started to give up but I yelled we were working on it. I am proud to say I was branded by my woman and I received my just deserts. I was known as the guy who had a hickey for the rest of the night. – Will Nicholls