Jobs. We all need them (unless you’re lucky enough to be rich), and, by extension, we also need the cash that comes with them.
Getting used to the capitalist society that surrounds us as Native people has been difficult at times, but we’re getting there. Nations no longer hunt, trap, farm or gather to avoid starvation. Instead, many of us work nine-to-five jobs and drive large SUVs in order to keep up with the Joneses, Tremblays or Shecapios.
Crees were one of the last remaining nations to hunt and trap as a way of life. But now they can simply walk down to the local restaurant and buy a hamburger if the geese aren’t flying that day. Eenouch no longer need to hunt and trap thanks to well-paying jobs and the not-too-long-ago end of their nomadic lifestyle.
A career is even better than a steady job. Many people in Eeyou Istchee are carving out their niche in life and working towards careers that the previous generation never had a chance to even think about.
Doctors, lawyers, and nurses are becoming the norm as far as careers are concerned for Native people to shoot for, and why not? We’ve dealt with a lot the last 500 years, why couldn’t we channel that strength into a life-long position as a corporate bigwig? Or a politician, perhaps?
Jonathan Cheechoo has chosen a different kind of career as a right-winger for the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League. And he has flourished. He is shooting for a 50-goal season this year and at press time was only eight goals shy of that total. I predict that his popularity and quiet, respectful demeanor will pay dividends for the Cree Nation in a short period of time for young Eenouch striving to make the most of their athletic ability.
Considering our short history at the university level we’re doing pretty well.
There are many opportunities out there for the youth to pursue their dreams. The Cree School Board pays a handsome sum to students attending schools across the country. There is also tremendous support in purchasing books, aiding with travel and other things that come with being a James Bay Cree student.
Whether it is physical labour or something a little more mentally challenging, Crees and all Native peoples have what it takes.
When the New Relationship Agreement was signed in 2002, it brought with it despair and heartbreak for some, but it also brought numerous job opportunities. Under programs like Niskamoon, Crees can train to work at higher-paying jobs with Hydro Quebec or Telus. Families are benefiting from these new jobs and have found a certain degree of wealth, even if it came at a very steep price.
The Cree Nation is one of the most respected in North America and it’s only going to get better. A generation ago we didn’t have jobs like computer programmer and website designer, yet they are now an integral part of the ever-growing computer business and the Internet north of the 49th parallel.
Everyone has a dream of what they want to be in life and the possibilities for the Cree Nation seem endless.