The Cree Nation Youth Council prepares for its upcoming elections, which will produce a new Youth Grand Chief and Deputy Youth Grand Chief.

Nomination forms were distributed to Youth Departments across Eeyou Itschee during the month of March. The nomination process – candidates were required to gather 10 supporting signatures – resulted in seven Cree youth being nominated for the Youth Grand Chief position; five were nominated for the deputy position. After several nominees declined the opportunity to run, ballots will bear five candidates for Youth Grand Chief and three for the deputy.

The candidates for Youth Grand Chief are:

•    Samantha Awashish, nominated by her hometown of Mistissini.

•    Jeremy Diamond, nominated by Nemaska, where he lives, and by Wemindji.

•    Kevin House, who hails from and was nominated by Chisasibi.

•    Joshua Iserhoff, from Nemaska but nominated by Eastmain, Waswanipi and Oujé.

•    Shadrock Trapper, the Chisasibi native who is the town’s other nominee.

The candidates for the Deputy Youth Grand Chief are:

•    Kenneth M. Tanoush, nominated by his hometown of Nemaska

•    Catherine Washipabano, from and nominated by Chisasibi

•    Samson Wischee, Mistissini’s nominee who lives in Waskaganish

The CNYC is hoping for a big turnout, and for an election where all the candidates have an opportunity to introduce themselves to the 13-to-35-year-olds who comprise the eligible voting block.

“We made the campaign period longer because we’re hoping we’ll get more voters that way,” said Stacy Bear, the current Youth Grand Chief. “We want to get the young people of the community more informed about who’s running so they can make a better decision who to vote for, rather than just voting for who they know.”

Bear says her departure after four years at the post is bittersweet, as she will miss talking with the youth of the Nation, whom she says have become close friends during her time as Youth Grand Chief.

The CNYC consults with the Grand Council and the Cree Regional Authority on issues and policies affecting youth. According to their website, they also serve as a place where Cree youth can learn the ropes of governance. The CNYC calls itself a “training ground” where the next generation of Cree leaders learn skills to equip them to deal with the challenges of overseeing Eeyou Itschee.

Elections are on May 31, with polling stations across the James Bay territory. Eligible voters who live outside of the territory will be allowed to cast their votes by fax on election day. Ballots can be obtained from Chief Electoral Officer Iris Voyageur in Mistissini or Assistant Electoral Officer Mary Jane Moar in Waskaganish