The Grand Council of the Crees

Graduates of the Special Needs Education Program Aboriginal and Inuit Children CEGEP de St-Felicien

Remarks by Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff

Posted: 2008-05-01

It is my honour to be speaking to the graduating class. I'm joining you right across from the United Nations headquarters in New York City to celebrate with the first ever graduating class for Chisasibi of the Special Needs Education program. I could not think of a better way to end my busy week by speaking to all of the graduates. At this time of year, we are busy rushing to try to get our camps and our families ready for goosebreak.

Today we are here to celebrate in one of our communities a story of accomplishment. I strongly believe in all of you and I am deeply encouraged to see the personal commitment all of you made to reach this day.
In November, I came to Chisasibi and made a surprise visit to the Inuit center while the students were in their classroom learning. It was funny to see the expressions of the students. I wish I had a video-camera with me to share that experience with all of you here. One thing that I remember of my visit there was all the beautiful smiles in that classroom, I knew that this day would come to you and your family's achievement. The graduates may recall what I said to them that day, keep encouraging each other; help each other out even though it might be a struggle at times. You have done so with your family's and friend's supporting you throughout this year.

Last year, I remember attending the first Cree Special Needs Conference.
The organizers of the conference told me there was a waiting list to get into the conference. Parents, educators, community workers, leaders and others from the Cree Nation all went because there was a strong desire to learn more, to participate and contribute in making the world of those with special needs in our communities and lives better. By doing so, I believe when we help others we really are helping ourselves as much if not more. We build upon the part of us that wants to contribute and add something to those around us. The graduates have taken this a step further in devoting their time, as I understand the course you have just completed was 915 hours from beginning to completion. The graduates before you here today did this to learn more how they could positively impact the lives of children from 0-12 years old.

This will enhance a child's ability to interact within their family, community and school environments. The special needs educators training is very important as it works with children with special needs who are having difficulties of a physical, intellectual, emotional or social nature. Sometimes, these are seen as barriers to those with special needs to participate more within our communities. But they do not have to be, and this is something the graduation class of the Special Needs Education program believe in, as well as many of you in this room.

Every Monday morning, I send out inspirational thoughts and a story within the CRA staff. It is something I have learned from my family and people I have worked with that we need to inspire and encourage each other. In the hostile world we live in today, we need to continue to speak words of positive messages and encouraging our children, our youth, our men, our women and our elders, daily. I would ask all of you to continue doing some small measures that reflect positive influences to your families and to your community. It will have an impact for generations to come. I know that being a part of this graduation today has inspired me, and the type of work you are going to do in our communities is something that will be very special. I thank you for this.

I would like to thank all the people who had a part in putting together this class and training program. I would like to thank the people from the CEGEP in Saint Felicien, and those in the Child and Family Services Department and especially your families and friends who have supported you. We need more of programs that seek to build our community spirit, and exemplify those parts of our human nature that seek to help each other. We are all members of our communities, but our Nation is one big family. We need more of the spirit of joy and celebration that is here this afternoon to spill over, but into the everyday life of our communities. Congratulations to the graduations; have a great goose break and take care of one another during this time of being with your friends and family out on the land.

I leave you with this quote that I want to share with all of you from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "We must keep moving. If you can't fly run; If you can't run, walk; If you can't walk, crawl - but by all means keep moving."

It is powerful quote and reminds us, No matter what, Never give up!!

Congratulations to all graduates and May God bless all of you.

Thank you.