Hello, my name is Jesse Tawen:rate Deer and I come from the Mohawk reservation of Kahnawake. Last week a delegate named Tracey Deer and I went to the Cree community of Waswanipi for the first Aboriginal Youth Summit. The Youth Summit was created by the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL). In the summit we were to discuss issues in our communities such as: alcoholism, drug addiction, justice, high school drop-outs, suicide… but not in that order. It was a pleasure to see the peoples from the different nations and communities get together and discuss current issues among our communities. The first morning I felt was a little slow because of the long speeches and such. But the first night we arrived in Waswanipi we were welcomed like people from the community, we went to the local youth center and had a banquet followed by games. Later on in the evening we were paired up with youth our own age from Waswanipi. I met a nice kid, his name is Naveron, he knew me for about ten minutes and already invited me over to his house to spend the night. To avoid confusion we arrived on a Monday while the gathering started on Tuesday and went through Thursday.
Wednesday morning we discussed what we had talked about yesterday and what solutions we had came up with. Then we were to discuss political issues in and among our communities. It wasn’t much of a surprise to find out that most of our issues were the same. We were separated three times into different groups. First, we were mixed with people from different Nations working together, then we were sent as one Nation per table, and finally we were divided into groups of men and women. I think it was a good idea to separate the men from the women because women and men may have two different points of view on the topic of discussion. That evening there was a public speaking contest. There were six contestants, but one dropped out of the competition. Two of the five speeches were in French and then it was time for the entertainment. There were four entertainers, but we had a surprise coming up. The surprise was a band called The Tea Party. The lead lyricist Jeff played three acoustic versions of their songs. That night all of the entertainers were Native except for The Tea Party. The judges had to decide who would be the top three contestants. They were Derrick Neeposh from Waswanipi, Janie Wapachee from Ouje-Bougoumou and myself. There were prizes to be won and awarded. First prize would walk away with five hundred dollars, second prize would walk away with three hundred dollars and finally third prize would walk away with two hundred dollars. I had already made friends with the other two contestants when we were standing there. I remember saying “either way all of us are walking out of here with money.” After that comment it was on with the contest and we were asked one follow-up question by one of the judges. In the end Derrick Neeposh won first prize, I won second prize and Janie won third prize. The evening ended with a series of square dances. I had jigged in one called a Snowball where you separate and come back with a new partner, then we made a big circle and each couple went in the middle and danced. On the final day we did what we usually did… we started a little bit late. We were ready to start with our activities except we had to wait for one of the youth to say the opening prayer. Since no one volunteered I went up and said the first part of our Mohawk prayer. That day there was a presentation of the social issues which we had done the first day. We went down the list carefully and went issue by issue. We looked at the definitions we had come up with in other words what we thought each issue meant. We also discussed the solutions we had devised. The floor was open to any suggestions anybody had so it was also a chance for the observers to take part in the gathering and discuss issues with the delegates. We then had a break for lunch and after lunch we continued with the discussion on different solutions we could think of to better our situations. Then there was a decision to make about what the new regional youth council should be like. We were given a draft on what the council would look liken and what they would deal with. There needed to be changes with that draft, but it was said that there would be changes with the draft. We also needed to decide who would be on this new council. It was said that it would be one representative from each nation, Tracey and I had a tough decision facing us because unlike the other Nations there were only two of us that represented the Mohawk Nation. It was a weird position to be placed in because we had both wanted to be a a part of something this spectacular. In the end we came to the conclusion that Tracey should be the representative because she is older and has a lot more experience. Besides, I really wanted to start a youth council in Kahnawake because we did not have one. We had one for a brief period in the past but no one knew about it. So Tracey is representing the Mohawk youth on a regional level and I plan to represent Kahnawake youth on a local level. After the new council was formed, we congratulated the new council members, then we had all joined hands and made a circle. I felt we were following the theme of the gathering which was “The New Circle.” It was, to me, an inspiring sight to see all ten of the First Nations gathered as one in harmony. I believe that there should be another gathering because it was great to see all of the Nations united. In closing I would like to say this to the other delegates that I didn’t have the chance to say: We are united as one forever in the circle that we have created, may the creator watch over you in all of your endeavors.