Cree leadership looks back at 2017, hopes for 2018

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Kaitlynn Hester-Moses, Youth Grand Chief

What was your greatest moment or achievement (professionally) in 2017?

The greatest moment and achievement of 2017 is successfully completing our 28th Annual General Assembly for the Youth in Mistissini. It was my first important meeting. I was very nervous, and worried that things could go wrong, or that I’d mess up my speeches or introductions. Thankfully, my friends in CNYC supported and encouraged me. I was very happy to hear the youth speak and asked questions to CNYC, and other invited speakers/presenters. The youth kept me focused. I just didn’t want the meeting to end. I look forward to more!

What moment in the Cree world surprised you the most this year?

I’ve had a couple of surprises. But the most important one for me was the love and communities and other Nations coming together as one. The Cree Nation has gone through a lot this year. In the past few months, families are grieving for their loss of loved ones. I was shocked to hear the tragic news of the four great hunters, young people and Elders passing away. The Cree Nation came together to stand and be with each other. It is a moment that no one will ever forget. It is important to me because while we’ve been working and achieving our goals, we stopped to stand with the families and communities, and show our respect and love to one another. That’s the Cree Nation I know.

The second thing that surprised me was the staff meeting/dinner in Montreal with the Cree Nation Government. I saw a picture on Facebook of Philip Awashish being amazed by the number of staff. He mentioned he remembers starting off with the late Billy Diamond and himself. I looked at the picture, and the people in the room, I was also amazed and felt blessed for what our former leaders had done for us. Every time I’m invited to meetings with the big tables, I can’t help but feel excited and happy like a little kid at Christmas morning!

What was your lowest moment or biggest hardship that you overcame and want to share with us?

Long story short, before I became the Youth Grand Chief, I was dealing with my personal issues, such as depression, anxiety and heart break for more than two years. I didn’t show, or told a lot of people about it. I was hiding it. I still went to college and completed my program. I graduated this past spring.

While I was in college, I decided to fight my battle. I was tired of the weight I was carrying and I didn’t want it anymore. I lost my reasons of why I chased my education. But I had hope. I hoped one day I’d overcome my depression and anxiety. Day by day, I fought. I had to remind myself why I was here. But then, I remembered the youth. That’s when I decided to fight. They are my greatest hope.

When I found out I was nominated as the Youth Grand Chief, I was still battling with my personal issues and I was dealing with my trauma of my recent car accident. I was scared to take the responsibility of sacrifice, service and duty for the youth. I was afraid to fail the youth. But deep down, I’ve always had a passion to serve the youth. I was given a deadline to officially accept my nominations and when that day came, I felt in my heart that I could not reject this opportunity.

I was at my lowest when I was nominated. But it changed me. The sacrifice I took to serve the youth changed me. I came a long way – I was a quiet, shy girl in class. Knowing that I’ve overcome my fear and anxiety in public speaking was a big moment for me. Ever since I became their leader it has helped me overcome my depression and anxiety. I still cry to this day knowing that I am not where I started off this year. The youth keep me going. They are my motivation and inspiration.

What is your greatest hope for 2018?

Every year, everyone expects to have a new fresh start. Selflessly, my greatest hope for 2018 is to see youth chasing their goals, fighting their battles, committing to their needs, receiving love, encouragement and inspiration from each other, and to keep going. We’ve come from a long way, and still have a long way to go. I hope the youth know they matter. They have a purpose and a future awaits them. My hope for the youth is to strive for greatness. When I look at them, I see leaders, directors, teachers, fighters, doctors and lawyers. I see a future of the Cree Nation.

As for the CNYC, my greatest hope for them is to continue serving the youth. I’ve seen them working hard for their community, youth and family. I encourage them to keep doing what they do. I hope they expand their vision for the youth and discover their potential and abilities along the way. I hope they gain more knowledge and wisdom for their leadership. They put others first before themselves. If it weren’t for them, the CNYC wouldn’t have been the CNYC.

To the Cree Nation, it has been a tough year for everyone. My hope for the Cree Nation is that we continue giving, loving, caring and standing for one another. I hope they find peace, love and prosperity. I hope they find the strength to keep going and working for themselves, family, friends, community and Cree Nation. I hope they inspire others as well. I hope they continue to teach, guide, lead, direct and serve for the betterment of the Cree Nation. I hope they continue to come together as one because we are stronger that way.

As for myself, I hope I don’t gain weight. Haha!

Honestly, I can’t think of anything for myself besides to continue being me. I’ve lost and failed a lot of times in my life. And I just kept going. Despite of how I was feeling, or what I was carrying, I kept going. And I just hope I keep going. Keep working. Keep serving. Keep fighting. Keep moving. Keep hoping. Because that’s what keeps me going – faith and hope. Hope gets me up in the morning. Hope gets me out of the door. Hope tells me everything is going to be all right. And faith tells me that, no matter what lies ahead, God is already there.

Chief Curtis Bosum – Ouje-Bougoumou

What was your greatest moment or achievement professionally in 2017?

I cannot honestly say that I had a personal moment that could be called the “greatest”. That is because, as Chief, I have tried to do everything collaboratively along with my Council and with my community members. Whatever has been achieved has been because we have made certain decisions and we have worked hard to put various initiatives in place.

Sometimes the greatest achievements are not the splashy ones, but the ones that lay the groundwork for real progress for the community for the long term. Sometimes the achievements that have the greatest impact are those that may appear to be minor administrative changes, but they have a lasting impact on our ability to provide meaningful programs and services to our people.

We have taken certain steps to position our local development corporation, Ouje-Bougoumou Enterprises, Inc., to become an efficient and effective vehicle to support our local businesses, to create jobs for our people, and to make contracts available to our local business people. In particular, we have established a local construction company, Kagoose Construction, and we have structured it so that we can take on a wide range of local and regional construction projects and civil works projects.

It will be through our community’s economic development arm that we will make our presence felt throughout the region while, at the same time, creating real opportunities for capacity-building for our local businesses and for our youth. I believe we have made significant progress in laying the foundation for important development opportunities for our community.

And we, as a Council, have always been open to hearing from our members, and our doors are always open.

I should mention also that our community as a whole was tremendously proud when our local community member and pioneering past chief, Abel Bosum, was elected by the Cree Nation to serve the communities as Grand Chief. We are confident that the Cree Nation will experience what our community experienced under his leadership, which is, that there will be a passion for service, a deep compassion for our people, and a style of working that involves everyone and brings everyone together.

What moment in the Cree world surprised you the most this year?

We were all, of course, very pleased when, under the leadership of former Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, the Cree Nation signed our new Governance Agreement in July 2017. This agreement will take us all further along in our journey toward self-government and self-reliance, and we are all looking forward to having our own Constitution which will solidify our unity and our governance system.

What was a bit surprising was that it seems that our Governance Agreement has really resulted in Indigenous groups across the country beginning to take notice of what the Cree Nation has been able to accomplish over the last 40-plus years. I am personally very pleased to see us in a position where we can share our Cree Nation experiences in a way that could maybe help other Indigenous groups in Canada to make progress in achieving recognition of their rights and then moving forward to improve the living conditions in their communities. This would be a nice way for us in Eeyou Istchee to give back.

What was your lowest moment or biggest hardship that you overcame and want to share with us?

In recent weeks, our community has experienced the tragic loss of two Cree people on our access road. This loss has had a profound effect on our people and we are still healing from those tragedies. Our people continue to be overwhelmed by the loss and our hearts are still heavy as we grieve with the families. Our sincerest thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families, especially as we approach the holiday season. We know that this Christmas will be very difficult for the families and we hope that they can receive some small comfort in knowing that they are not far from our hearts, from our thoughts and our continued prayers.

What is your greatest hope for 2018?

We in Ouje-Bougoumou feel very privileged to be part of the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee. It took us many years to be where we are, and we remain grateful for the support of the Cree Nation all along the way. We are blessed that we can be part of the incredible journey that the Cree Nation has been on for many years to put in place the beginnings of a great Indigenous Nation. The best that I could hope for in 2018 is that we all continue on that journey in unity and that we never take for granted what we have achieved and what we have.

I hope for the continued well-being of our community members as well as that of the Cree people in our other communities. I hope for health, prosperity and contentment.

On a more practical level, I am hopeful that, as a Nation, we will be able to deal with our housing crisis in a way that will work for our people and stimulate our economy.

And finally, I hope for continued development of our community, greater support for our youth to fulfill their dreams and ambitions, preservation of our culture and values in close respectful interaction with our Elders, and above all, continued and increased unity among our people.


Kathleen J. Wootton, Chairperson – Cree School Board

What was your greatest moment or achievement professionally in 2017?

There are many memorable moments in the past year, but the greatest one for me as well as the School Commissioners was when we received the final reports from the two working groups mandated to review the Cree Component of Cree Education and the Cree Education Act. The Cree School Board started these two review processes in response to the first two recommendations from the Communication, Accountability Follow-up for School Improvement (CAFSI) Report (2008). The review processes are the first steps towards “decolonizing”.

This means, in effect, a reform of the current education system that seeks to create a new education system centered on our culture, language, philosophy, principles and values. Our goal is for future implementation of a true Cree education system. A system that is truly “Cree” must be founded upon our traditional knowledge, traditions and skills.

What moment in the Cree world surprised you the most this year?

Following the election of a new Grand Chief and Deputy Grand Chief, we are encouraged by their openness. We are hopeful that more opportunities for dialogue at the regional government level will be presented, especially about issues that concern social, economic, judicial and political matters in our communities. As partners in education, we anticipate playing a more a significant role in the process of nation building as it relates to the new Cree Constitution. A Cree Constitution should not be “silent” on education or health.

What was your lowest moment or biggest hardship that you overcame and want to share with us?

The people with whom you work with are such a big part of daily life that they become your friends and extended family over time. Sadly, the School Commissioners and Cree School Board staff endured several losses in this past year. Alexandre Guité, a member of the board’s Materials Resources department, passed away suddenly in March. More recently, we shared the sorrow and sadness of the Wapachee and Jolly families for their loss of a daughter, grandchild, sister and niece, Jacie Wapachee. We continue to keep the Guité, Wapachee and Jolly families in our prayers.

On another note, we also saw some newly elected School Commissioners begin their terms for the next three years, and yet were also sad to see a few out-going School Commissioners as well. We thank the out-going School Commissioners for their service and greatly appreciate their efforts these members have offered the Cree Nation.

What is your greatest hope for 2018?

My hope for 2018 is that the work towards reforming and “de-colonizing” the Cree education system continues. For too long, the Cree Nation has put aside its own traditional knowledge and skills in favour of the western or Euro-centric education system and its ideologies. The western system does not reflect our Cree values, principles and culture, and that has been detrimental to our society in many significant ways. One of which is the failure of our children to identify with the educational activities under this system. We need to reform our education system to instill in our children and grandchildren a sense of pride as Cree people.

My dream is to create an education system based on Cree ideologies and one that reflects Cree society of today. I also look forward to another Regional General Assembly on education this coming spring and at which time we would like to hear what your expectations, hopes and aspirations are for education. I hope you will join us in participating in this dialogue on Cree education.

At this special time of year, I would like to wish all leaders and members of the Cree Nation a blessed and wonderful holiday season. I would also like to acknowledge the devoted commitment and collaboration of the School Commissioners I have privilege of working alongside not to mention the trusted leadership at the Cree School Board. Finally, it is a good time to remember those who have passed on and to remember that their life’s work is done, and they are in a better place now.

I wish everyone good health, prosperity, peace and love for 2018 – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Robert Baribeau – President of CCDC

What was your greatest moment or achievement professionally in 2017?

A definite highlight this year was the opportunity to start a new partnership under Gestion ADC and the Miyuu Kaa Corporation in Waswanipi. After its creation we were able to secure the catering contract at the WindFall Project for Osisko who is conducting extensive exploration works in that area. I would like to thank Osisko for this opportunity and also to our new partners!

What moment in the Cree world surprised you the most this year?

I also want to congratulate our new Grand Chief Abel Bosum and new Deputy Grand Chief Mandy Gull. I am pleasantly surprised at how refreshing it is to see them working closely with all the entities and working towards giving our Nation hope for the coming years! I welcome this new spirit of inclusion and I most definitely believe we can accomplish so much if we all work together.

What was your lowest moment or biggest hardship that you overcame and want to share with us?

Another year has gone by and I am happy to say that it has been a pretty good year for our companies and our partnerships. There are of course some challenges in running our companies and sometimes we have to say good bye to good friends for different reasons. All in all, I wish all those who have worked hard for our companies and have made different choices for their careers the very best of chances in all their new challenges.

What is your greatest hope for 2018?

For the upcoming year, CCDC and its partners must continue to be competitive if we hope to continue to grow and be successful. To do this we will always need our collaborators which include our employees, suppliers, subcontractors and, of course, our clients.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and very Merry Christmas and the best for the New Year!

The Nation sent out questionnaires to all of the Chiefs and heads of entities of the Cree Nation. We would like to thank Grand Chief Abel Bosum, Youth Grand Chief Kaitlyn Hester-Moses, Chief Curtis Bosum, Cree School Board Chair Kathleen J. Wootton, and the President of the Cree Construction and Development Company Robert Baribeau for their time and sharing their reflections of the past year and hopes for the coming year with the entire Cree Nation.


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