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Davey Bobbish takes over as Cree Nation Executive Director

BY Ben Powless Jan 27, 2023

Davey Bobbish was at home, listening to the radio, when he found out through the news that he had been selected to be the new Executive Director of the Cree Nation Government (CNG), replacing the outgoing one, Bill Namagoose. 

“That’s how they work at the Cree Nation Government,” Bobbish said with a laugh, adding that he later got a follow-up phone call from Namagoose and Human Resources. “I was pretty proud. It took a while, but it was worth the wait,” he added, after applying in December 2021 and getting the offer in August 2022.

Since September, Bobbish has worked alongside Namagoose to try to get a handle on the role, meeting with department heads, directors and consultants about all the files managed by the CNG’s top civil servant.

However, Bobbish said he had been working with Namagoose since shortly after he began his career in public service in 1998, when he was elected to council in Chisasibi. “That was my first experience in local politics,” Bobbish said. “I was working for a local construction company, then I became part of chief and council.”

With a background in finance, Bobbish was asked to take over as the Director of Finance for the community, since the role had been vacant for over a year. He had to first resign as a councillor so he could become appointed treasurer in 2002, which is when he began working with Namagoose. 

By 2004, Bobbish became Director General of Operations for Chisasibi, while still holding the title of treasurer. He remained there until 2011, when he was appointed Deputy Director General of the Cree Regional Authority, before it became the CNG. 

However, he would only last five months in that role before being elected as Chief of Chisasibi in 2012, remaining in that role until 2020, while also serving on the executive committee and part of the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Regional Government when it was created in 2014.

Bobbish said that he decided to apply for the executive director position because he saw it as an opportunity to help improve communities. “It was fun working with Bill and being part of the development and growth of communities,” he said. “It’s always been my dream to work for the people, and being the executive director, working with all the communities at the same time.”

Now that he’s officially taken over as of the second week of January, Bobbish said his priorities are to work very closely with leadership. “Our leadership is directing where the Cree Nation Government will go. It’s my responsibility to make sure the things being requested from leadership are being done accordingly with our staff.”

Bobbish said he does not expect to make major changes within the administration, but that he’s been meeting individually with different directors to get a sense of what things they want to see improved. While the executive director has traditionally worked out of the Ottawa office, Bobbish said he will be based in Chisasibi while keeping the offices in Ottawa and Montreal.

Bobbish said the biggest challenge will be working with the Canadian and Quebec governments, as he anticipates having to renew and start negotiations over a number of agreements, including the New Relationship Agreement, which ends in 2028. “We have to ensure we’re ready for it and we’re prepared for these negotiations coming in the next five years,” he added. 

Now that he has officially started the job, Bobbish said, “It feels great, and I’m very happy that I have a good team under the Cree Nation Government: all the directors, department heads, coordinators, and the people we have to make sure things are happening.” 

After hosting his first official directors meeting on January 16, Bobbish said he was happy with the level of participation and ideas that are coming forward. “I think we’re going to have a great team,” he said.

“I want people to know they can come and talk to me about things. I’m very open, and very approachable. I speak Cree, English and French, and will discuss anything. If they want to talk about the Habs, I’m more than comfortable,” he added with a laugh, explaining he is a huge fan of the Montreal Canadiens. 

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.