Former Chief Sam Bosum passed the reigns of leadership to Ouje-Bougoumou’s first female Chief, Louise Wapachee, in a special inauguration ceremony held November 20.
Grand Chief Matthew Mukash acted as official witness for the proceedings, which were officiated by Pastor Enoch Hall.
Mistissini council advisor Henry Mianscum was the guest speaker of the evening, which included speeches by former and current chiefs and band councillors, as well as song, poetry and a short play composed specifically for the event.
Deputy Chief Anthony Hughboy, and Councillors Gerry Bosum, Sam Bosum, Patrick Mianscum, Darlene Shecapio-Blacksmith and Janie Wapachee were also sworn in during the ceremony, which was followed by a feast at the OJ Sports Complex.
The ceremony attracted constituents young and old as the youth and Elders of the community came out to support their new chief. The children of the chiefs and council escorted the inductees into the ceremony, while the mothers of the chief and deputy chief presented them with traditional beaded vests.
“I didn’t expect it to be that grand,” Louise Wapachee said of the ceremony. Although she knew her mother was preparing something for the ceremony, the new Chief was pleasantly surprised when Maggie Wapachee gave her a beaded vest she had sewn for the occasion.
Chief Wapachee’s father, Matthew Wapachee, told the Nation he is confident in his daughter’s abilities. “I’m glad Louise will be Chief, I know she can handle the job.”
He also had some advice for his daughter. “I told Louise, ‘You have to look after the people who cannot work or look after themselves.’ “
Wapachee is highly influenced by her father’s discipline and hard work. In her inauguration speech, she praised his example of how a family should be, describing how Mathew Wapachee spent a large part of his time away from the family, so he could provide food and housing for them.
Chief Wapachee appeared to heed her father’s advice, as she pledged to listen to the people of OJ, including the Elders and the Youth. In her inauguration speech she emphasized the importance of “sharing, caring and respect,” as well as advocating on behalf of others.
Wapachee wants to restore community unity and to build trust and credibility in the administration. Her mandate is also an opportunity to recover the past: Wapachee had already been elected to serve as Chief in 2001 only to have her power taken away in a still-obscure legal manoeuvre.
Louise Wapachee also has a message for Eeyou Istchee:
“I also want to implore our friends and neighbours to listen to the voice of our people for our right to be recognized. We count on your friendship to understand our need to govern ourselves in the manner that you have inspired and taught us.”