In 1998 and 1999, representatives from the Cree Nation Youth Council (CNYC) travelled to all Cree communities, Senneterre and Washsa Sibi. We went to listen and consult with the Youth. We came to take direction.
What did the Cree Youth say?
Cree Youth had a realistic understanding of the current situation, and the prospects for their future. They had very strong ideas about what they wanted to do, and what was possible! Here is what they said.
We want a better future! We do not accept our current quality of life, either for ourselves or the future of the Cree.
We are caught in a bigger problem: we know we are the product of larger, complex processes that involved those who came before us. We know we can’t solve this alone.
We are trying to bridge two worlds: we are part of a long, capable and noble Eeyou/Eenou tradition. We are also part of a larger world. There are times we feel these two worlds do not fit well together. At the same time, we find ourselves wanting the best from both worlds. There is no easy solution.
We want a say in our future! Those who make many of the decisions that affect us most often do not listen to us, or don’t take us seriously. This includes everyone from the CRA to the CNYC and our local Band and Youth Councils.
We want to be heard! We know who we are, what our concerns are, and we believe we have some solutions. We at least want an opportunity to try, and to learn from our efforts.
We will not wait! Our situation gets worse each passing day. We want to start now, to build our better future.
We can make a difference! We may not have all the answers, but we know that any solution must involve us. We must be part of the solution!
We need to work together, with others, for everyone!
We need to cooperate, and share and focus our limited resources.
What have we done?
“The CNYC Working Agenda”
The Board of the CNYC took the feedback from the Youth, discussed it, proposed a Vision and priorities. We consulted again, and then established a Working Agenda. It includes our Vision, sets our objectives, and has specific planned actions to achieve these. Here is a summary.
1. We are Eeyou/Eenou. and proud of it!
We developed specific actions to strengthen the knowledge and practice of our language and culture – our identity. We will ask for the full guidance and involvement of the Elders. We also plan to seek accreditation to recognize the learning we will acquire.
2. We want to be heard, and to take responsibility!
We have initiated the development of CNYC sponsored training programs designed to improve our leadership and organizational skills, at the local level. We plan to have successful participants receive accreditation.
3. Strengthen the well being of our families.
In partnership with other community organizations, we will improve communications and support within the family, and foster family activities within the community.
Youth are also seeking the involvement in better solutions to our chronic housing problems.
4. A healthy life, free of substance abuse and dependence.
We will work with others at the local level to assure that there are safe places for Youth to go, and places for troubled Youth to seek help, 24 hours a day. We will work to upgrade the current approaches for dealing with dependence. And we will make a major effort to bring in constructive and fun activities, year round, in our communities.
5. Jobs and a fair chance to work.
There are not enough jobs, and even when there are, recruitment is often not fair, not based on merit. We are told that education will lead to better jobs, and we see that this is not really the way it is. So, we will work with all Cree organizations to put in place fair and effective hiring procedures. And, we are seeking much better planning so that Cree Youth who are in post secondary training or education can already know what types of jobs will be becoming available when they graduate.
6. Education and training.
We have already initiated contacts with the Cree School Board (CSB). The Youth have asked for the same types of improvements as those proposed in the Mianscum Report:
• Standards that enable Cree Youth to succeed in high school and beyond, at home or down South;
• More involvement and genuine support from parents and community;
• Recognition for higher education and training in hiring personnel;
• More community based vocational and technical training;
• More Cree history in our curriculum, at all levels.
Success only comes by working together…
Experience has taught us that we need to work together. The major effort must still take place with each individual, at the local level. Youth Councils will be strengthened and supported. The CNYC and the Director – Youth Development will work to establish working partnerships and joint work plans with other capable organizations, including the Cree School Board, the Cree Health Board, the Humzn Resource Department, and CRA and local Band Councils.
The needs and aspirations of Youth are not new…
…our determination to act and succeed are!
Doo daa dow!