As the world revels in the season’s celebrations, much of the Cree Nation’s leadership is already thinking about 2013.
To get a glimpse of what is to come in the New Year, the Nation spoke to the powers that be to see what was on their minds and what their areas of focus would be in 2013.
Whether it’s about being positive and encouraging the people to be their best, focusing on social issues, building up the local and regional economy or rebuilding a community from the ground up, the responses varied tremendously. Whether their aspirations were tall or small, they all serve as a source for inspiration as it is from this that the course of the next year will be forged in Eeyou Istchee.
Each person was asked the following three questions:
1) What is your resolution for your community, entity or organization?
2) Why have you chosen this as your focus?
3) How do you intend to carry that out?
And here are their responses.
Chief Reggie Neeposh
The community of Oujé-Bougoumou has achieved many outstanding accomplishments over the years. We can never, though, rest on our laurels. There are always new challenges, new opportunities and still old problems that haven’t been addressed as successfully as we would like. My resolution for Oujé-Bougoumou is that we approach our current circumstances and our future challenges with the same spirit of innovation, the same spirit of unity and the same spirit of optimism and faith which characterized our struggle to have our rights recognized and the same spirit which guided the planning and construction of our village.
I have chosen this focus because I never want to see our people become complacent. There will always be new challenges for our community and for the other Cree communities of Eeyou Istchee. Right now, there is a challenge before the Cree Nation, which will define this current generation of leaders. We have the opportunity before us of becoming the major economic and political force in northern Quebec. This will require a serious initiative on the part of the Cree Nation and its current leaders in order to take advantage of this opportunity and to fulfill our Nation’s long-held dream. The challenge currently before us may be the greatest challenge we have faced so far. I never want to see our people lose the spirit required to successfully rise to this challenge. The stakes are too high.
Locally, we have taken important measures to improve the way in which our organization achieves its objectives. We have done this by giving a greater role to the elected officials in Oujé-Bougoumou, the council, in ensuring that community objectives, and council mandates, are effectively being implemented. We are trying to find ways to introduce a greater degree of responsibility at every level in our organization. Our hope is that if we can instill more effective skills in implementing objectives, then it will be easier to address the larger challenges facing us as well. We are also trying to hold on to, and to rekindle, the sense of community spirit, which brought us to where we are. And finally, we are trying to identify ways of inspiring our youth to become active participants in the life of our community so that we can have their energies utilized in useful and productive ways. Our community needs our youth, and so does the Cree Nation.
Chief Rodney Mark
To be a kickass awesome community!
We are born awesome; life is awesome. Therefore we should live and create a kickass community.
• We want to build awesome people.
• We want to build awesome businesses.
• We want to attract awesome business investment.
• We want to attract awesome people to live here.
• We want an awesome place to raise children and families.
• Kickass respectful attitude.
• Kickass responsibilities and wise financial management
• Have an awesome clean and beautiful community
• Have an awesome safe and secure community
Have an awesome holiday and kickass New Year from all of us in Wemindji.
Be cool, be kind, be silly, be awesome. Life is precious.
Chief Edward Gilpin
The resolution for the coming year will be to focus on social issues. One example is to continue working local committees, local entities and our regional and local police force to find ways to get rid of the drugs and control the sale of alcohol to minors. Our children are paying the price. Wishing you people who work at the Nation a very Merry Christmas.
President of Aanischaaukamikw
I wish all the best of family life for my community of Waswanipi (Light on the Water). May that light shine upon Eeyouch of Eeyou Istchee. I am eternally grateful for the staff of Aanischaaukamikw, may they walk with great pride for their wonderful work.
May our prayers be constant for the work that they do for Eeyou heritage, culture and language. May they receive abundance and support as they carry the banner of cultural heritage on behalf of the Cree Nation.
The Elders of the Cree Nation gave me the mandate to finish Aanischaaukamikw and share their vision. It is as a collective that we can be an active supporter to gather our stories, history and preserve our heritage.
The best way is to create activities that portray a living culture. And the richness of skills, knowledge of our storytellers, artists and, most importantly, the wisdom of our Elders through oral history. Gather Elders, youth, women and men to share with one another and pass on traditional knowledge to the next generation… Aanischaa! Strengthen the network to the communities and the cultural coordinators (community outreach). Play a part for the Circle of the Cree Nation to be whole again.
Youth Grand Chief Joshua Iserhoff
Cree Nation Youth Council
The Cree Nation Youth Council is now stepping into its 28th year of existence! As Youth Grand Chief, I fully recognize, respect and honour the progress achieved in the last 27 years for Cree youth to be fully integrated and involved in the political processes and decisions that affect all Cree youth. We have learned much and our vision is clearer today than before. We will be all the more proactive at every opportunity to excel. We will collectively design our role and place in the future of our Cree Nation. We will develop strategic action plans that will propel us to operate in the inheritance that our former Cree leaders, parents and Elders have gifted us with.
We are better positioned today than yesterday to assume increased roles and mandate, therefore we will support every Cree youth vision and encourage and ensure their voice is heard. We will increase our capacity to complement the successes of the past and cooperate with the hopes and dreams of our Cree Nation. We will run after every positive change we see, especially those that breathe life to all Cree youth. We will work with the accomplishments of many Cree young adults who are trained, educated and who are more than ready but capable to preserve, promote and enhance our Cree Nation values and principles. We will network with all Cree stakeholders necessary to advance our shared and common vision of a brighter future for our Cree Nation. We will succeed!
Cree youth today represent 69% of the electorate of the Cree Nation. Cree youth are best positioned to address the challenges that face Cree youth in creative and innovative ways. We are the leaders of tomorrow and we will lead sooner than later. Cree youth cannot afford to be on the fringes looking in, complaining of not being included, not recognized, or not consulted – we have come this far and yes, and we can do more. With unwavering faith, conviction and determination – we have to succeed. We have no choice – we have to hold on to our dreams for a better tomorrow. We cannot give up and lose hope. As Cree youth, we have to have reverence for life and, we have to run with a fresh vision and mission to achieve all our dreams.
One thing is certain: we cannot work in isolation with other Cree leaders, parents and Elders. The Cree Nation Youth Council will have to work all the more to identify practical measures necessary to address every challenge and move forward. We will have to set in place specific short-term and long-term goals with clear benchmarks to gauge progress and success. We will have to face the challenges that are before us by increasing our activity in hosting conferences, summits and youth leadership capacity initiatives. We have to be all the more involved as future leaders.
We will have to work harder and strategically together with our Cree Elders and Cree advisors. We will have to listen to each other all the more. We will have to build upon the successes of our Cree Nation, our communities and our people. We will have to bring Elders, parents and leaders together with the youth with a strategic purpose of sharing life-giving stories of hope and life. We will have to rediscover the strength in our people and we will have to encourage all Cree youth to rise above the various challenges of today.
We will do our part to give life to these dreams, hopes and visions of a better future for our Cree Nation. We will do more and we will do better! We will succeed! Wait, watch and expect an exciting New Year in 2013!
Chief Paul Gull
Waswanipi has a rapidly growing population; our team’s resolution is to focus on new and emerging trends in economic development that would increase employment opportunities for our community.
Our statistics indicate that 11% of the youth population will be reaching the age of the majority and we intend to prepare meeting the needs of this upcoming workforce.
Our first priority is to encourage all youth to complete post-secondary studies, the education path has the greatest long-term benefit for youth. We aim to create a skilled, diverse and qualified workforce. I believe through this process the community will benefit from entrepreneurship as a key method for the development and strengthening of Waswanipi’s local economy.
Our organization is always looking for new economic growth opportunities that are sustainable; presently we are focusing on identifying and researching new innovations in employment and various markets that could potentially benefit the community.
Chief Stanley George
A glimpse of my vision for 2013, together with the Whapmagoostui council and administration, we will…..
1) Continue to implement the Remedial Financial Action Plan by updating the community on the challenges and issues we have to address to correct the deficit and eliminate it for the sake of our children and their children.
2) Address the housing issues by encouraging home ownerships through the “rent-to-own” program and by building energy-efficient homes that meet northern climate standards. We expect to build four to six units in 2013 and host the first-ever local housing forum that will bring awareness to our members on the real issues and challenges.
3) Inject funds into cultural, Elder, social, recreation and youth development projects.
4) Build a community playground.
5) Community landscaping and community restoration project will be continued.
6) Rebuild the community’s youth centre.
7) Create Whapmagoostui’s own and centralized economy by operating our own convenience store, a restaurant and a construction company with rock crushing, excavation and drilling-blasting expertise. We expect this will bring wealth of opportunities, such as employment, training, lower food costs and incentives to all members to participate in ensuring long-term food security and jobs for the community. Cree ownership, Cree employment and Cree effort = capacity development and empowerment.
8) Upgrade and lease a new fleet of heavy machinery and equipment for the Whapmagoostui Development Corporation.
9) Purchase a hunting and fishing vessel that will serve hunters and fishers.
10) Renovate the exterior and interior of 20 social housing units in which all Cree local contractors will reap the benefits and ensure adequate housing is a top priority.
11) Ensure that our hunters/trappers subsidy program is equal and fair to all.
12) Purchase a 28-seat bus for the community’s participation in tournaments, festivals, gatherings and meetings.
As a leader, around this time of the year, I like to reflect on the past and use this as a guiding principle to bring more transparency and to ensure sound decisions are made as the top priority for the next year within my council. Despite many challenges and difficulties in 2012, just as the world keeps turning, the rivers and winds continue to flow, we must become like these natural elements; look ahead, move forward and keep on rolling in order to achieve economic and social prosperity for our people.
A new year brings many blessings and endless opportunities. I remain optimistic that I can build meaningful employment and training opportunities that will lead to capacity development and empowerment for the people I so humbly serve. Ultimately, in the long run, this path will define our freedom to our own destiny and build a solid foundation for our children.
As a community, we always finds ways to advance and improve. We will rise to any challenge. We will find ways to bring more jobs and encourage local business people to pursue their aspirations.
Since 2006, we have been under close scrutiny with our past financial spendings that led to an accumulated deficit until 2010 when we had to deal with harsh realities and put ourselves under a strict Remedial Management Plan. This plan is basically our five-year community business plan.
Despite the barriers, we will focus on centralizing economic activities and encouraging positive spinoffs for local entrepreneurs right in Whapmagoostui’s central and potential business district. Jobs create social responsibilities, concrete family obligations and a sound economy that will build a healthy and prosperous community.
At this time, I would like to wish everyone all the best during the holidays and may all of you recieve great blessing from Chisamanitou for 2013.
Chair of the Cree School Board
My resolution for the 2013 is to lead the team of Commissioners in continuing with the change process which the Cree School Board launched in 2008. With the adoption of the Cree Governance Model in 2010, the Council of Commissioners now governs Cree education according to the 10 principles of Policy Governance. The Chairperson and Commissioners now govern with an outward vision, set clear purpose and priorities, and set clear responsibilities and roles for the council and the director general.
The first principle of Policy Governance is to establish a strong relationship with the ownership, or as some may say, the stakeholders. The Council has begun the process of connecting with the Cree Nation through its Ownership Linkage Plan.
The Ownership Linkage is the process to help the Council gather information through various means, that is, meetings with different Cree organizations or entities. The Ownership Linkage process gives the members of the Cree Nation – whether through the various Cree entities, organizations, associations or communities – the opportunities to discuss with the Council their educational concerns, issues and expectations. This Ownership Linkage Plan will help the Council to be better informed of what the Cree Nation expects from the Cree School Board, its own Cree Nation’s education system. The information gathered from these meetings will assist the Council to know whether the Ends policies it set in its policy manual actually reflect what the Cree Nation expects of the Cree School Board. In other words, are we meeting the educational needs of the Cree students, both the youth and adult students? This information will also help the Council in its effort to review the Cree component of Cree education.
By developing the Linkage Plan, the Council has set a tentative schedule of the various organizations, entities and communities with whom it wants to meet. The Council developed a set of questions which it forwards to each entity prior to a meeting. Based on the information gathered from these questions and the discussions from these meetings, the Council then assesses the data from each meeting. At the end of the school year, the Council will review its Ends policies and assess whether it needs to amend, delete or add a new Ends policies based on the data it gathered from its Ownership Linkage meetings. This is to ensure that the Cree School’s purpose and direction reflect the expectations of the Cree Nation. This way, the Council can govern Cree Education with proactivity rather than reactivity.
James Bay Cree Communications Society
Continue working on the preservation of our language as we are slowly losing it. Radio has a lot of influence and working with our Elders to ensure proper Cree is used daily on the airwaves will help.
CREECO/ Board of Compensation
Among the members of the Board of Compensation (BOC) there is an understanding that the capital monies of the original signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, a fund that totals in the neighbourhood of $136 million, will always and forever be there for the Cree people.
We have done very well with this over the last 30-odd years. The total has now grown to about $151 million and so we are beyond what it was originally. And it is this high even though we have spent approximately $230 million of the interest of that over the course of many years and over all of the entities and communities.
By resolution the funds are to stay within that understanding of all of the board members that we will always keep the capital monies intact and so my basic principle is that we remain within that amount and spend what revenues we have with the BOC for the general benefit of the communities through their projects, programs and services as well as some of the administrative costs of the entities.
We do not attempt or ever say that we are going to cover 100% of the requests that people make, but we do try to assist as many entities and communities as we can in terms of their various programs that they develop on their own.
So, the principle of my resolution is to keep the capital where it is. How we are going to do that and why we have chosen to focus on this is because the BOC was created by the JBNQA as an entity with a wide-open mandate. It is our own entity and we do not have any requirements by any government or bodies to tell us what to do with that money.
We are the sole decision-makers of this money, now and for the future. The Cree are the ones who decide how we will distribute this money and, most importantly, how to invest this money in terms of the various instruments that are available to us to try and grow this money as much as possible.
Taking into consideration all of the situations regarding these investments, especially the risks that are involved, we still need to look at our situation and say that we have to protect that money and that capital and move forward from there.
This is our primary focus and I am going to do this by listening to my board members. I talk to them individually and I ask them questions, and I really work with my executives and my investment committee. We make everyone understand what it is that we are doing and how we are doing it. We also have a financial consultant in place and we use him every time we meet. He is in between the executive and investment committee, and we use him to advise us as to where we should go.
For me to be able to do that I have to be able to work with my board members, my executive and my investment committee to determine exactly what kinds of investments are good for us.