Delegates from the Cree Nation Youth Council and health professionals across the Cree Nation gathered in Nemaska February 12-14 for the Cree Nation Youth Council’s inaugural health conference.
The Cree Health Board, Eeyou Eenou Police Force and the Cree Nation Government were among the entities that showed up for this unique event that also streamed online. Though the agenda largely featured presentations and a few interactive activities for youth, they did engage in some group challenges to address the health issues youth are facing in Cree communities, such as diabetes and addictions.
“I was proud to see the youth and their participation in the team challenges. I was proud to see them presenting. Although some were very nervous, they inspired me because of their courage and bravery. It’s not easy speaking in public,” Youth Grand Chief Kaitlynn Hester Moses told the Nation.
The event provided an opportunity for professionals at the Cree Health Board to present their projects and to make a meaningful connection with the youth.
“I went to present what’s the best fit for them in terms of approach, outreach and support,” said Joey Saganash, who is the Planning, Programming and Research Officer for the CHB’s Youth/Uschiniichisuu health departments.
“We also wanted to create a strong partnership with CNYC and more collaboration with youth in Eeyou Istchee,” he said. “That way we can connect and plan ahead with them from the bottom up to cater to their needs and identity, and to ensure that the work being done is validated by the youth.”
The three-day conference focused on diabetes, addictions, crime prevention, mental health, sexual health and intergenerational trauma. Despite timing and technical difficulties, the event was a success.
All speakers arrived with a strong message to the youth. Delegates such as Savannah Blacksmith, the youth delegate for Mistissini and a trainer at the Mistissini Fitness Centre, said they were moved by testimonies and presentations.
“It was thought-provoking for me. Hearing from our leaders and our youth made it all the more important on how much we should value our well-being,” said Blacksmith. “I definitely felt a sense of community being among others who value good health and advocate for our Cree nation.”
Last summer, the organization’s annual general assembly adopted a resolution calling on the CNYC to organize the gathering. After months of hard work and challenges, delegates and speakers were on their way and the team was ready to roll. Bringing youth together, nurturing respect between each other, educating, addressing tough issues and promoting healthy lifestyles were the goals for the CNYC with this event.
“We all came as strangers, and left as a family. This was the first step to our health conference, and we’re not planning to stop,” said Hester Moses.