“Maybe I dreamed too big for them,” said now former Youth Grand Chief Joshua Iserhoff. “I did what I could in three years, but I think we did an excellent job as youth leaders.”

Former CNYC Grand Chief Joshua Iserhoff, seen here on the cover of The Nation at the end of the Council's 800-kn protest walk against Uranium in December 2014.

Former CNYC Grand Chief Joshua Iserhoff, seen here on a December 2014 cover of The Nation. The photo was taken at the end of a 800-km protest walk against uranium development.

Iserhoff was commenting on his removal from his position in a vote of non-confidence August 16 by the board of the Cree Nation Youth Council at the Annual General Assembly in Waswanipi.

“I’m a happy-go-lucky guy and I thought everything was going quite well [at the AGA],” he said. “I had no suspicions, but you know how when something doesn’t add up, you kind of feel it in your spirit? I felt that way throughout the whole assembly.”

He is referring to a group led by now-Interim Youth Grand Chief Alex Moses, which raised complaints about Iserhoff’s leadership.

Moses had difficulty explaining the move, saying that he was waiting until the CNYC prepared a press release. However, he confirmed that Iserhoff was deposed as Youth Grand Chief.

“The outcome was that there was a vote, as the constitution states,” Moses said. “The only way to remove the Youth Grand Chief is through a youth assembly at the Annual General Assembly, which requires a two-thirds vote favoured by the delegates. That is what transpired.”

Pressed for further details, he responded, “There were accusations that Josh abused his office. The comment I would make is that the youth wish to be represented, and represented well. There’s a request for more activity, more projects – they want more action. That was heard loud and clear. The CYNC board members – youth chiefs, youth development coordinators who sit on the CYNC board – raised some things they felt were issues they had encountered working with Josh.”

Iserhoff, however, said the accusations are weak. Principal among them is that funds were misspent. This, Iserhoff said, would be nearly impossible.

“The CNYC is under the CNG, so I had the Director of Culture, then the Director General, and then the Treasurer. It goes up through the whole line and of course it goes to management before any project is approved.”

But he invited the scrutiny, and expects no proof of wrongdoing would turn up.

“Go ahead, do all the work you need to do,” Iserhoff said. “I’m not going to try to stop anyone from justifying their allegations – I know they’re not true. It’s only going to make a bigger mess, and it’s going to be costly if they have to pay out of the CNYC budget, which I worked hard for.”

Iserhoff acknowledged that his leadership rocked the boat. He cites his push to move local youth coordinators, who he said were generally older and had been in their positions a long time, from the board to administrative positions.

“No administrator should be on the council, as they’re all elected people,” he said. “From the get-go they never liked that. Two years ago I presented a strategic plan and under that plan, a lot of changes were going to happen. It was a constant battle. I was supposed to travel to all the Cree communities to present it and ask if it was a good idea, but the board decided I wasn’t going to do that. They did everything they could to keep me from achieving what I wanted to achieve as a grand chief.”

Still, Iserhoff said he’s proud of what he and the CYNC achieved under his tenure, particularly the N’we Jinan project and the Uranium Walk.

“This has been really hurtful. It’s brought me to tears. But this is the life of a leader. You have to go through these ups and downs, but I don’t wish for any of our youth to go through what I’ve gone through.”

EDIT: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the CNYC non-confidence vote was initiated by Alex Moses, Interim Youth Grand Chief. Communicating with the Nation, Moses underlined, “I had nothing to do with it. It was proposed by an individual, one of the delegates. I was not aware it was coming and I wasn’t expecting it myself.”