As the Grand Council of the Crees and the Cree Nation Government recognized the newly elected Grand Chief and Deputy Grand Chief in Waswanipi on November 11, another inauguration ceremony saw the installation of Adrian Gunner as the new Youth Grand Chief and Jordan Masty as the Deputy Youth Grand Chief.
Exchanging a feather back and forth four times, once per year of the mandate, and imbuing it with good thoughts, outgoing Interim Deputy Youth Grand Chief Stacy Anderson passed the feather and duties onto Jordan Masty as part of the ceremony. Outgoing Youth Grand Chief Kaitlynn Hester Moses then did the same, passing on her feather and responsibilities to Adrian Gunner.
Youth Council MC Tania Lariviere explained to the packed auditorium of the Waswanipi Community Health and Fitness Centre that this was the first time the Deputy Youth Grand Chief had undertaken the rite, which was started when Bertie Wapachee was Youth Grand Chief. Wapachee also spoke at the event inaugurating the two new leaders.
Gunner, 25, from Waswanipi, has worked as a social work technician at his community’s high school after training and working as a police officer. He also worked as the youth development coordinator in the community.
Masty, 29, from Whapmagoostui, was elected in 2016 as the Youth Chief of his community and was also elected that year as a local Cree Trappers’ Association board member. He also currently sits as the vice-chair of the Whapmagoostui Hunters and Trappers Association.
Outgoing Youth Grand Chief Hester Moses said her four years in office were full of learning. As someone who was initially hesitant to get involved with governance and politics, her term really opened her eyes.
“I got to learn more about our people, our youth issues, our youth’s abilities, the things they can do. So it was a learning experience for me. We faced a lot of challenges, and we learned how to get through those challenges,” she stated.
Some of those challenges, she said, are having to decide what things are the biggest priority – since it feels like everything is a priority, but they can’t fix it all in just a few years. The other challenge is coordinating and implementing projects between all the communities, while problem solving along the way.
Besides the challenges, Hester Moses said the role is also full of beautiful moments, such as the first Annual General Assembly she chaired in 2017, a month into her term. She described it as a touching event, getting to meet the youth from each community “where they can voice their concerns and their needs and interests and the things they want to accomplish in Eeyou Istchee, the things they want to challenge, and the things they want to see. It was one of the most powerful moments for me and I felt really honoured to be able to be the chairperson for that.”
Hester Moses said that there are a number of issues facing youth in Eeyou Istchee, including mental health, bullying, the Grande Alliance, and youth wanting help when they speak out. However, she said that these aren’t just issues for the Youth Grand Chief, “but all leadership in those areas need to deal with them.”
For the incoming Youth Grand Chief, she said to “never give up on the nation-building they want in the Cree Nation, never stop speaking for all the youth, and to walk in places we haven’t walked before and to speak in places we never spoke before.”
She encouraged young people who are considering getting involved in politics that desire is the only thing they need to succeed. “If they have the desire to be in that role then that’s the only thing they need, because if they have that desire, they can accomplish anything with it. That’s how it happened for me. When I got nominated, I had that desire and I did it,” she added.
Hester Moses said that the position does require some sacrifices too – missing out on time with friends and family, and other community events – but that you can learn to manage your time. She encouraged people to never stop learning, using both the old ways and the new “modern” information available today.
“I want to thank everyone who walked this journey with me, and I want to thank the Deputy (Youth Chief) who sat with me, Robin Gull Saganash, Samantha Awashish and Stacy Anderson, and then I want to thank all those who supported me and supported the youth, who stood with the youth, and I’m sending all good spirits to our new leadership today,” Hester Moses said. “And I hope that we all walk to our nation-building together.”
Benjamin Powless, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nation