For the past four years Deputy Grand Chief Ashely Iserhoff has traveled the Cree Nation and far beyond its territories as an elected representative of the people, championing their views and sharing them in turn. As the deadline to announce a candidacy for office within the Grand Council approaches, Iserhoff ponders where he would be most effective and in what context.
“Throughout my travels through the Cree Nation, I have been asked to think about running for Grand Chief. So, I am just in thinking mode right now as there is a door that has been opened but I will probably only decide during Goose Break what I will do,” said Iserhoff.
Whatever he decides, what will really compound it will be how many nominations Iserhoff gets for either position. Though it may be his decision, he would rather that the Cree people guide him along the way.
Deciding to give it a go for the second time round for Iserhoff it’s all about one word: “change.” Tired of the status quo, Iserhoff said that in his mind Crees want to see change in the way they govern themselves. It’s not that he takes issue so much with the last 30 years of leadership, it’s just that he believes that this is an opportunity to start thinking and using new ideas for the benefit of the Cree people.
Over the years, Iserhoff said he has put many new ideas forth, some of which originated from him and some from the people he serves. Though some of these ideas have been used, he still feels that many are not being heard and that the current leadership needs to accept that the people themselves want change.
“I know that there are a lot of people who want to keep things status quo but we are ready for a new direction and a new way of doing things. About 65 per cent of our population are youth and that is a huge demographic in terms of the numbers. The way things are going right now concerns me because I don’t think there is enough emphasis on what is going on with the youth. There has to be a new way to channel their energy and also make them feel more part of the community,” said Iserhoff.
Last February Iserhoff attended the Nation Building conferences put on by the University of Arizona for the Grand Council and much of the Cree administration. An entire day at the event centered on the concept of “nation building,” which is something that Iserhoff takes to heart. Though he said the Crees have progressed tremendously in the past 30 years, Iserhoff believes it’s time to take it to another level in providing new opportunities for the people.
“We have a lot of institutions and major organizations that are there to help but at the same time we have policies and other things in place that defeat those who are trying to be successful. Those are the things that come to my mind in terms of economic development,” said Iserhoff.
In the coming years Iserhoff would like to see more opportunities for Crees to become entrepreneurs and have easier access funding.
In terms of employment, he agrees that there has been a great deal of it created through immediate projects, such as the EM1 construction project, but his concern is for the workers who will be out of a job when the projects end.
At the same time he said that because the Crees have the financial resources to create long-term employment opportunities for the people, more needs to be invested into this. The same goes for developing initiatives within the school system to improve upon the outcomes for students. Though Iserhoff has always maintained a student’s performance begins with “mom and dad,” with better support within the school system, more Crees would be able to get into the jobs they want.
“I have said it before, we have to find ways to work together. Everyone has great ideas but sometimes different organizations do their own thing and it just doesn’t work that well. But if things come together in different forms from those we created in the past, we will find ways where we can achieve as more students succeed in school, more people to succeed when it comes to economic development,” said Iserhoff.