Canoes and other news

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The past few weeks have been very busy for Cree Nation Youth Grand Chief Stacy Bear. Between a highly successful Cree Nation Youth Council Annual General Assembly in July, spearheading a new campaign to inspire hope and seeing off her youths on their last ever Rupert River Canoe Brigade, the time has flown by.

Bear headed up to the Smoky Hill landing near Waskaganish from July 21-23 for what she described as one of the most fun, interesting and emotional Youth AGAs she has ever attended.

Not only were the three days productive but more so than anything, Bear said that she was very pleased as she had a chance to hear the voices of every single youth attending.

Bear was happy to announce that the council elected Nemaska’s own Joshua Iserhoff as the new interim youth ambassador. Iserhoff beat out four other candidates at the AGA and over the coming months he will develop and define the new position for the next individual to take the reins sometime next year.

The Youth at the AGA also decided that the position of Cree Nation Youth Deputy Grand Chief should become a paid elected position that will also commence next year.

On a more spiritual level, Bear said that she was very proud to launch the “Inspire Hope Campaign” at this year’s AGA. The idea is simple, to make a personal pledge or an oath to inspire hope within those around you by sharing positive words.

Bear explained that the idea came out of an informal CNYC meeting in Chisasibi where the council had been trying to assess who they were, what they had done and where to go next. She said the discussion went on to the wee hours of the morning and this is when the idea was born.

“We did an inspire hope circle and I took my eagle feather that I carry with me all of the time. We passed the feather to the person on the right and spoke positive words to them. There were a lot of tears shed and there was a lot of laughter. I was both very surprised and very happy as I got to hear from every single young person who came to the assembly. This is what I was hoping for, that everyone would have a chance to speak and be heard,” said Bear.

To promote the spirit of the campaign, attendees of the AGA were given pledge cards, buttons and bumper stickers carrying the message to inspire hope.

In light of this concept, then Grand Chief candidates Matthew Coon Come and Matthew Mukash incorporated inspiring hope into the campaign speeches that they made to the youth. Bear described this as so emotional at points that some youth had to leave the speech area as many were crying, particularly when Coon Come spoke.

Bear was proud to announce that over the course of the AGA, the participants had decided to decree that 2010 be the Year of the Youth, complete with a decree and yearlong activities to engage young people in working towards their futures. Part of this she said will involve working with Cree businesses to orient the youth career-wise, a youth symposium, public speaking events and competitions, and a youth gala.

Just weeks later on August 15, the annual Cree Nation Youth Heritage Journey set off in their canoes from Mistissini for their final trip down the Rupert.

This bittersweet journey will see 58 paddlers travel for three weeks to their final destination in Waskaganish on September 7.

According to Bear, the turnout is significantly larger than in previous years that usually attracted a total of 20 paddlers. As this was their last time to do so before the mighty Rupert River is diverted by Hydro-Québec, girls as young as 12 embarked on this journey with many other youths, guides and Elders.

Along their route the paddlers will travel through Old Nemaska as they make their way to Waskaganish.

This trip, however, is not just about seeing the Rupert the way the Cree ancestors once did, it’s also about getting closer to the land and who created it.

“The Elders always say that they are going to witness God’s duty. I have heard some of the participants say that they have been able to connect better with whoever they believe in, the Creator or God, through these journeys,” said Bear.


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