The Grand Council of the Crees

Cree Child and Family Services, Board of Directors' Banquet

Remarks by Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff

Posted: 2008-03-15

I would like to thank you for the invitation to be here today at the closing banquet of your meetings and training sessions. As families and communities, we have chosen to prioritize the standards of care and safety of our children. As individuals you have taken this charge seriously by requesting and participating in training and meetings like you have over the past two days in Val d'Or. I would like to thank all of you for being part of the sessions.

On my part, you have my support and admiration for your work and dedication as you volunteer to ensure our children are well taken care of. I encourage you to continue to pursue your path of learning and working with our children. For we will all be better for the efforts you make. Our children are in the what they call the formative years of their personal and social development while they are in your care. You have the privilege of spending a good portion of their waking hours with them each day.

I think about how we were raised as children as I walk around the communities today. When we were at the supper table or at restaurants, we were told to eat all of our food and to not waste anything as children in other places are going hungry. I wonder if this saying was invented before poutine, pizza and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Perhaps, in some cases, leaving things on your plate would not be such a bad thing..

As much as our people have lived through events such as residential schools and other tactics that sought to devalue our family and community structures, we have the opportunity with our children to move beyond this history. You have taken training, and attended talks which seek to reinvigorate practices in supporting the development and nurturing of our children. As you work with the children, you become role models of healthy relationships and understandings of social interaction. It is not just an investment in tomorrow, but also it giving children the most precious gifts we can - our time and attention.

Today, sometimes I see our children running us more in the homes than we do them. I can only imagine what it is like for some of you on Monday morning, where you might have twenty to forty little bosses waiting for you. When I was younger, my parents made it clear to me who was making the decisions in our lives but they set parameters in a loving way. Studies they say that children are responsible for forty percent of our decisions to buy products so advertising on television is directed at them from an early age on.

I recently started to have gym nights in Mistissini when I am home. Originally, it was to attract some friends to get into some exercise at night. We set up volleyball and badminton nets. We started noticing more and more children showing up to watch, and others trying to play along. Soon, it became nights were we would come more to play with children than to get the exercise. I was amazed at their ability to simply walk in and join us. They noticed that we were playing for fun, and quickly adopted an attitude of laughing when they made a mistake, or simply trying again. It made me realize that our children are watching us, and we have the opportunity to be role models in our actions and behaviour in our daily activities.

I would like to leave you with a few last thoughts, our children watch us, they learn to talk, walk and react. They learn from us, and perhaps we also learn from them. We learn things about the wonder and excitement of life, learning and sharing. The gifts they give to us of laughter, admiration, and love are priceless things. Also, my little niece and nephew are incredible story tellers. I think if they have the ability to tell a story, they must love to hear them as well. We are described as an oral society, where our history and culture are related to each other verbally. How much time do we spend with the little ones telling them about who they are, and about a proud and beautiful history and culture they come from?

I thank you all for inviting me today, I am always enjoy the opportunity to talk with you about subjects like this.

May God be with you and your families. Safe travels.