CNYC-AGA-2014-6From cost-cutting measures to setting priorities for the Cree Nation Youth Council, this year’s AGA was a celebration of what youth can do, according to Youth Grand Chief Joshua Iserhoff.

The 25th Annual General Assembly of the Cree Nation Youth Council took place July 14 in Whapmagoostui. Iserhoff said that because the community is so beautiful, the CNYC took time out from their work to enjoy the community.

“I spent a lot of time outside; it was part of the plan, to take in the beauty of Great Whale. The Youth Council did a wonderful job as they were able to get ATVs for us. They also had a boat for us to go up the river,” said Iserhoff.

Many resolutions were passed to lay out the year of work ahead. But Iserhoff said the tone of this year’s event was different because they did not bring in special guest speakers from the outside of the Cree world. Instead some Elders spoke and there were a presentations made by different members of the Cree Nation.

“We wanted to do something special for the 25th anniversary of the youth AGA and so we called it Nwe’ Jinan, Making History,” Iserhoff explained. “We wanted it to be about the youth delivering their concerns and sharing their opinions because in the past we would have a lot of presentations.”

Going over the many resolutions passed at the event, their first addressed the youth’s concerns regarding mining development and the environment. According to Iserhoff, this resolution came out of a talk given to the youth by Elder Thomas Coon.

“He basically said that we have to be careful with our land. They want to ensure that the land is protected and that we also utilize our own consultants instead of outside consultants so this means working with the tallymen and also focusing on coming up with other strategies for economic growth instead of destroying the land,” said Iserhoff.

The youth resolved to send representatives to the Annual General Assembly of the Crees in Waswanipi in August to express these environmental concerns to the leadership.

In other CNYC business, it was resolved that the board would elect an interim Deputy Chief in August to replace Kenneth Tanoush, who resigned the position during his term.

One of the more important resolutions adopted at this meeting abolished honorariums to local youth chiefs and coordinators for attending board meetings. From now on, board members would only be compensated up to $250, and this only when there has been a loss in wages from their regular job as a result of attending a CNYC board meeting.

Matthew Natachequan and Saige Mukash

Matthew Natachequan and Saige Mukash

“We are abolishing this because we used to get $250 per day and then $125 for travel per day and then other fees and so we would be paying out about $1000 for each member to go to a board of directors meeting per week and so we would end up paying out $20,000 in board fees alone and this would not include travel, hotels or babysitting fees. So, all told, it would cost about $40,000 per meeting, twice per year and then there would often be an extra emergency board meeting and so that would be about $120,000 in board fees for the year,” said Iserhoff.

Iserhoff went on to say that as these are youth who could become leaders of their communities they should set an example. The hope is that this move will be echoed in other Cree organizations, including the Cree Nation Government.

The CNYC also resolved to examine incorporating the CNYC through John-Paul Murdoch’s law firm, Murdoch Archambault Avocats Inc. According to Iserhoff, were the CNYC to become an independent non-profit organization it would be easier to access funding from outside sources, especially if they were able to obtain a charitable registration number.

He added that an independent organization would be better positioned to assume an overall role in youth development and support the activities of other stakeholders who have issue-specific programs aimed at youth (such as Cree Health Board, CNG Justice and Corrections, Cree School Board and CHRD).

“We would hope that working together with other stakeholders we could make a meaningful impact for Cree youth in key areas such as learning and career development, leadership, civic responsibility, health and wellness and tonnes more,” said Iserhoff.

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Mariah George, Darius Mamianskum, and Adam Masty-Shem

There were also a number of community programs and initiatives that the CNYC resolved to support. One of these was the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay’s new Iiyuu Ahtaawin Miyupimatisiiun Plannning (IAMP).

After a presentation made at the AGA by Sol Awashish and Darlene Shecapio about IAMP, the youth resolved that they would like to support their mandate in their Cree community tours on social/health priorities within Eeyou Istchee.

The CNYC members also mandated funding to create an annual gathering between the Cree youth and the First Nations neighbouring Eeyou Istchee. This gathering would take place in a different community every year.

In keeping with the times, a resolution was passed to ensure that future AGAs be broadcast either over the Internet or radio in years to come. While a livestream was not feasible for the Whapmagoostui meeting, Iserhoff said that this should be happening for the 2015 meeting.

The final resolution was passed to support collaboration between the Cree Wilderness Committee and the Justice Department of the Cree Nation Government for youth in need of treatment and healing.

“We said that it would be to create a partnership with them and so while we can’t interfere with the judicial system, what we can do is offer them access to the cabins that the CNYC build on Abel Joly’s camp ground and so we would like to offer this to the Justice Department so that they can utilize them,” said Iserhoff.

Iserhoff said that as Youth Grand Chief, he recommended that members attend their local council meetings, especially to make education a priority.

“I believe in youth leadership. However, I believe that in order to lead one must have knowledge and wisdom to lead. This ‘learning on the job’ has to be addressed locally and regionally,” said Iserhoff.