Not only is Stacy Bear the first-ever female Youth Grand Chief of the Cree Nation but at 28 she is bringing a sense of humility and wisdom beyond her years to the table that perhaps only someone as evolved and endearing as her could.
Though bubbly and brimming with self-confidence now, life was not always that way for Bear. She began with the Youth Council at the age of 16 and continued on with the council becoming local Youth Chief after she completed an Aboriginal Studies certificate at Algonquin College in Ottawa. College life however was not an easy time for Bear.
Though she wanted to continue her studies after college, Bear found herself unable to as a result of frequent panic attacks and bouts of anxiety. After careful consultation with a psychologist and counsellors, she resolved to heal herself by “getting away from all of the bad stuff” and by quitting both smoking and drinking.
“It was one of the obstacles that I had to overcome and it took me three years to do that. It was one of life’s real challenges so far,” said Bear of her healing process.
At the same time she feels that because of this experience she is in a position to reach the youth of the communities as she knows what it’s like to be in their situation.
In her mind the biggest thing lacking for the Cree youth is parental support, particularly when it comes to education. With the dropout rate at almost 50% across Canada for Aboriginal youth, Bear feels that things could be different for kids in the Cree Nation if parents showed more love and support by becoming more involved in their children’s schooling.
She also feels that increased transparency in parent-child communication might be able to reduce the statistics when it comes to other social problems. “I don’t think parents talk to their kids enough about sex, alcohol and the effects of drugs. I am pretty sure that a lot of them have been there themselves and they should share their stories with their children,” said Bear.
Now serving as a role model for the youth, Bear says she has stressed the importance of birth control to young people as it can allow them the freedom down the road to complete their education, travel and do one of her favourite things, attend large concerts. Bear raved about attending a recent concert of R&B singer Alicia Keys and of her love for hip-hop soul singer MaryJ. Blige.
Providing encouraging and healthy environments for the youth and stressing the importance of positive thinking are going to be key issues in Bear’s reign as Youth Grand Chief to increase the well-being of those she is there to serve. Though youth events, gatherings, traditional activities and tournaments will always be items on Bear’s agenda, teaching the youth about self-esteem will also play an important role for her.
“I think that a lot of positive talk can help but not just from the people around you, also from yourself. I helped myself when I learned how to speak and think more positively about myself and it really helped me become more confident,” said Bear.
Explaining how an Elder once told her of the importance of youth adhering to “the traditional way” by spending time in the bush as a means of finding peace, understanding and the answers to the problems they are trying to resolve, Bear said that she keeps these words close to heart. It is her belief that not only are the Cree youth interested in learning the old ways but that it’s a great way to stay healthy.
Though she keeps a busy schedule these days with her new position, to keep healthy in both body and spirit Bear loves to walk out in the bush, particularly with her 84-year-old grandmother. “We go berry picking or she teaches me how to work on hides which is really good for the arms. She’s 84 and I’m 28 and she can still scrape hides longer than I can,” said Bear in admiration.
With a busy summer ahead of her, Bear is particularly looking forward to her swearing-in ceremony that will take place during the regional youth assembly in Mistissini July 22-24.
Though barely a few weeks into her new position, she is thrilled to have already felt so much love as the Youth Grand Chief and is looking forward to the future. When asked how the job is going, she replies with a giggle, “So far, so good!”