The Cree Nation Youth Council declared 2010 the year of our youth. Reminding us – the older generation – that these are the people of our future, the people who will inherit all that is to become of our future.

With that said The Cree Nation Youth Council hosted the first ever Youth Symposium in Val-d’Or June 22-24 at the Hotel Forestel. The theme was “Inspiring Hope”.

Holding a youth symposium was something that was never done for my generation or not in this way.

The opening ceremonies started with a prayer by Thomas Coon, and were followed by the opening words of Youth Grand Chief Stacy ¨Kukus¨ Bear.

There were speakers from across Canada, including the master of ceremonies, Stan Wesley. Originally from Moose Factory, the Toronto-based Wesley attended this historic event and helped us in better understanding our youth.

There were numerous booths set up during this event. The Cree Health Board had a booth handing out information to our youth on the possibilities of getting a career in the medical field. It wasn’t only restricted to that medical area, but included information on any type of job.

The Cree Health Board also held workshops during the event. They focused on teaching the youth about sexually transmitted diseases and how you can catch them as well as how to identify the signs of different viruses and diseases.

The Cree School Board and the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue were there giving out information to the delegates. They have helped many to decide on what career to follow and what is needed to take a program you’re interested in. You may want to be a teacher, a doctor or a secretary. All the information required was available and they were very helpful in explaining the details and steps needed to register for a certain course.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada was also there. This is an association that helps women and their families deal with violence. In some relationships, women have a hard time distinguishing what violence is. It may be verbal, sexual or physical. All are completely unacceptable and have to be dealt with immediately. Most women in relationship are too afraid to consider filing a report on any kind of abuse. In every community, there are resources and places a woman can go if she needs help. Please do so before it’s too late to do anything.

Day Two started with speaker Chief Clarence Louie, who is the Chief of the Osoyoos Nation in British Columbia, which is known as one of the most developed Native communities in the country. He wrote a book on his achievements as a leader and as a community member to his band. He spoke about how a community doesn’t have to wait for government money to be able to prosper as a community. “If you have the resources to start a business why wait for funding from the government. There are other ways and different places you can go to get things started.”

After his presentation, I spoke with several people and youth about their thoughts on the symposium. I was really happy meeting so many young people I didn’t know but today I call them friends, especially on Facebook.

Two workshops given by Rodney Hester, CREECO‘s Business Development Coordinator, were about acknowledging leadership and establishing government structures, followed by the importance of education, careers and economic development. And Charlotte Ottereyes from Waswanipi gave an interesting workshop, even though the topic was Fixation.

An agreement between The Women of Eeyou Istchee and the Ministry for Economic Development, Innovation and Exports hopes to promote women into starting businesses of their own. Someone was overheard commenting, “They are taking over politics, so they might as well start up business.” Way to go to the women of today. The information given out in this workshop was very helpful not only for the women but for all who in the future would like to start up a business of their own.

Around noon someone yelled, “Lunch at the teepee. Beaver, goose and everything you want to eat.” I didn’t realize I was moving fast until someone pointed out that there was enough for everyone.

One thing I miss living in a city is the abundance of Native food I had back home. The people I saw at the teepee were really interesting, even hotel employees and tourists came over to look at what was going on. They tried the food that was there and some even volunteered to help out. It was nice seeing people thanking the cooks and helpers for giving them such a welcome and filling their stomachs.

One image that stands out is when I saw a young boy of about eight biting the meat off a beaver head and saying, ¨I will get to the brain one way or another.”

In the evening there was a banquet, which was followed by the Youth Achievement Awards and a great rock show by our very own CerAmony.

Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff must be proud of his little brother Matthew, but I wonder if he really did teach Matthew how to rock’n’roll as he has stated in one of his speeches. This went on way into the late hours of the evening.

On the last day, a group from Wemindji performed in morning. They call themselves Wemindji Rocks, but I would call them The Bradiest Bunch from Wemindji. They are so much fun to be with, especially Marz, Cainers, Sallz and Dez. I didn’t get the chance to meet all of them, but I can tell you that they could be the next stand-up comics of the Cree Nation. They are great fun so check them out on YouTube and find out what they’re all about.

The ongoing presentations given at the teepee were mostly about the roles of a man and a woman in the Innu way of life. Teachings about the animals and what they represent was quite interesting.

I had a great time at this historic youth event. I met new people and learned about things that I didn’t have a full understanding of. If there is ever another symposium similar to this one, I will make sure to attend even though I am no longer considered a youth, though I am one at heart. Watchya to all the Cree Nation, especially to the youth. Good luck in the year to come and hope to meet again in a few.