The Grand Council of the Crees

Remarks by the Deputy Grand Chief, Ashley Iserhoff on Waswanipi Career Day

Posted: 2006-01-19

I would like to thank the organizers from the Willie J. Happyjack Memorial School and all the partners for the invitation to come speak at the Waswanipi career day. As somebody who was very involved in the development and activities of Youth Councils at the local and regional levels, I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to speak an event such as this. A Career Day is one tool among many to help our youth fulfill their dreams and contribute to the development of their community.

Instead of finishing this speech by thanking the organizers of this Career Day, I would like to begin by thanking them for taking on a big challenge such as this. Thank you to all the organizers. The purpose of the Career Day is to display to our youth and other members of the community what opportunities exist with regards to future employment and careers. This is a very difficult but worthwhile challenge.

It is difficult for many reasons, but mainly because we are trying to plan in a world which is changing so quickly, sometimes it feels too quickly. This is especially true in our world, Eeyou Istchee. Try and imagine what it would have been like to try and plan a Career Day back when the JBNQA was signed. How would we have known that we would have a shortage of computer technicians, hydrologists, biological engineers, apparatus maintenance technicians, or specialists in all aspects of sawmill operations? But here we are.

This fact demonstrates something very important that all youth need to keep in mind. With regards to the future and careers that are open to you, your only limitation is your imagination. Despite the impression that we might have sometimes, it is a wonderful time to be a young Cree. The opportunities that are available to you are practically limitless and you have the support of your leadership and your communities in the pursuit of these dreams. The Grand Chief and I both made a commitment which we are fulfilling every chance we get to assist the youth of our communities identify and realize career opportunities.

I want to make something clear; I am not saying that life is easy as a Cree youth today, because we have so many opportunities. With the availability of all of these opportunities comes great responsibility and it is easy to feel lost in a world that changes so quickly. I know sometimes we wonder if we are loosing our culture, tradition or that which makes us Eenouch. Being faced with choosing between many opportunities in world that is constantly changing it is important that we do not forget our families, communities or elders. These are our anchors. By keeping our people in mind as we plan our careers we are guaranteeing that we will pursue our goals with purpose instead of as a simple objective.

Our people give us purpose and the ability to take on challenges that we would normally not be able to.

On a day such as Career day it is also important that we give proper value and recognition to our traditions and culture. Too often we under-value the importance and significance of traditional roles such as tallyman, amisk/indouhoun ootsimau. For example, I would personally rely on the geological and seismic expertise of a tallyman born and raised on the land if I was developing a project rather than an engineer from the best University in Canada who has never felt the soil of Eeyou Istchee in their hands. We should not forget the traditional careers of our people as valid and potential career options.

In closing let me say that I am proud that I have been able to contribute today with words and thoughts that challenge you to think about planning for your futures. Remember that you can achieve what dreams you have set out for yourself and that success is measured not by where you end up, but what you had to overcome to get there. I will be proud to walk beside you when you have chosen a career path.

Whatever you do, Don't Give Up!