When I feel down, it motivates me to remember who my relatives are. My family – like many families in our communities – experienced hard and dark moments in their lives. Still, my relatives carry themselves with such pride and dignity. Even though they were hurt, they are still the most caring and loving people I know.
My dad came out of La Tuque residential school and studied briefly in Senneterre. One of his former teachers told me he would practice basketball alone with weights attached to his ankles to make his training harder. For me, this image sums up his journey. My dad fought the colonial system while fending off his own demons. He still does. The fact that he’s still out there fighting for our human rights is something I respect a lot.
My parents told me how the Cree Nation Youth Council came into existence. It was bunch of young people – many of them residential-school survivors living under a new, modern treaty – who wanted to be part of a larger conversation on the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. When I sometimes feel like my work is meaningless, I reflect on that to keep on going.
The CNYC used to have a strong voice in Eeyou politics. Now, regionally, I feel it lacks that essence and purpose. It has become corporate and looks more like a mini Cree Nation Government where youth leaders copy career chiefs. My dad contributed to the creation of the CNYC with rad folks like Redfern Mark-Stewart and Bertie Wapachee. They were loud, unapologetic and didn’t wait for space to be given to youth in important conversations. They imposed their presence.
In my own experience, the CNYC isn’t always a safe space to speak out on some issues. There’s bullying, sketchy moves and side-eyeing going on, which is unfortunate. A lot of youth don’t want to contribute to those spaces because of the unnecessary lateral violence going on there. I’m not saying that everything the CNYC does is bad, but I wish their spaces would be safer and more inclusive, and that it would recover its grassroots origins.
We as youth should reclaim our rightful voice on the regional political scene and within Cree country as a whole. We have little to no contact with other Cree youth entities in Canada and that’s something we should work towards – uniting the Crees and broadening our vision of decolonization.
The CNYC is having their elections this summer. I’m hoping to see a shift in how we use this platform and political tool. Most importantly, I wish we become nicer to each other within youth spaces.