Saturday, 3 September 2016

Standing on the Precipice of Uncertainty

By Stephen Penner, 1st year MDP student

Hold back from the LG2 Dam in Radison, Quebec

After 15 weeks of consultations with over 300 different members of the Eeyou Istchee from Chiefs to small entrepreneurs the facilitation team are to wade through the data, consult with our Director and respectfully and honestly give voice to the people in terms of the creation of the framework for a trade and commerce agreement.

Carrying the academic and experiential learnings that I have been honoured to have received is a critical part of the process. Along with these lessons it is also central to hold the principle accountability back to the people of the Cree Nation, who have entrusted us with this critical job.  To facilitate agency and respect the sacredness of story telling is the third pillar I have carried on my journey.  All of these weave their way through the long hours of trying to sort the responses and write a cohesive and coherent interim report.

These last few weeks have been tinged with a sense of loss, of leaving new friends too early, departing from a magnificent and sacred territory too soon and of trying to fill the upcoming void that will be missing the laughter and story telling that I have barely begun to scratch but have come accustomed too.  Like a tattoo, some things do not have to take a long time too mark you forever.

Old Northwest Warehouse in Fort St. George, former home to the Chisasibi Cree Nation before Hydro Electric Development

The report is very near completion.  I have a sense of anxiety that in order to deliver on the promises that we have started with this engagement, it will take structural change within the Cree Nation Government. As a facilitation team we had the privilege to hear the lived experiences and to have listened to voices of the people of Eeyou Istchee who were asking for a tool facilitate letting them live “Miyo pimatisiwin.”   With economic leakage of dollars south at upwards of 70% these voices seem to be reaching a unified call for change and asking for a way to reverse this trend.  As the leader of one of the largest Cree entities said “Our world demands jobs for our people.”

We were not doing a research project but actively engaging key community stakeholders and providing a platform with which they can shape policy.  Consultations felt like holding onto a treasured object- one that offers the possibility of turning wishes into actions.  The report once it is filed will have a life of its own.  It is my hope is that through the act of broad community consultation, the report, will ignite the fires of change and illuminate the way towards a brighter future for all of Eeyou Istchee.



Facilitation Team members playing pool (and eating wings!) at the Retro Daez Café in Chisasibi. A business that received funding from the Department of Commerce and Industry 

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