Ouji-Bougoumou host its Youth Recognition Awards

by Patrick Quinn

Ouje-Bougoumou held its Annual Youth Recognition Awards November 25 to highlight the positive contributions young people make to the community.

“The whole reason for this event is to show our youth we have so many great role models,” said Ouje-Bougoumou Youth Chief Miguel Shecapio-Blacksmith. “If youth are having a tough time, they can know there are people who won awards that were able to overcome a difficult childhood and become great role models.”

Last year, the role model award was renamed in honour of the late Nathaniel Bosum, who was widely respected as both an entrepreneur and motocross racer. On November 5, Bosum was inducted into the prestigious Canadian Motocross Association Hall of Fame in a ceremony attended by his family.

Tanika Bosum was honoured with the Nathaniel Bosum Memorial award in the 13-17 category. Janie-Rose Bosum, who graduated at top of her class before attending college, earned the Education award. Other winners in this age group were Drake Bosum for Sportsmanship, Wabana Petiquay for Culture, Tianna Hughboy for Artistic/Talent and Darren Bosum for Humanitarian.

Hosted by Brenda St-Pierre, this year’s gala featured awards that were renamed to add a little pizzazz. The Humanitarian award for ages 18-35 was given to Miranda Coonishish for actively volunteering to make her community a better place. The Life-Saver award, celebrating a courageous youth who went above and beyond as a frontline worker, went to Isaiah Wapachee.

In the older youth category, Martin Metabie was given the Nathaniel Bosum Memorial award while his sister Kecia Metabie won for Education. Albert St-Pierre was presented the newly renamed Phoenix award, which celebrates “youth who rise with new life like a phoenix and display exceptional determination and stamina as they overcome significant life challenges.”

“Albert St-Pierre has gone through a rough time but over the last year we’ve seen him become a great leader,” Shecapio-Blacksmith told the Nation. “He created a men’s association in our community and is vice president throughout the whole Cree Nation. You always see him involved in the community – a lot of people noticed he’s changed.”

Celebrating one year of sobriety a few days after the event, St-Pierre shared on social media the day he decided to walk away from drugs and alcohol, explaining he made the choice to “live again” to the fullest. He dedicated this award “to everyone who’s making that fight to be happy and turn their lives around ... because above every storm there is sunshine.”

Also in this category, Allisson St-Gelais won MVP (Most Valuable Parent), Dorianne Bosum won the Culture award, Kurt Shecapio-Blacksmith won for Sportsmanship and local Youth Chief Miguel Shecapio-Blacksmith fittingly won for Leadership.

Deputy Grand Chief Norman Wapachee and Cree Nation Youth Council (CNYC) Grand Chief Adrian Gunner delivered inspiring speeches as many of last year’s winners passed the torch to this year’s selection. Gunner presented the Leadership award, highlighting that everyone recognized were “superstars”.

“It was an awesome event,” Gunner said. “We’re going to recognize youth of every community on our social media and our Inspire Hope conference that’s happening in March in Whapmagoostui.”Gunner told the Nation about exciting cultural exchanges between the Youth Council and other First Nations and Inuit groups. It began last year on National Truth and Reconciliation Day, when the Youth Chiefs were meeting in Chisasibi at the same time as Nunavik’s Qarjuit Youth Council (QYC).

Marching together to honour residential school survivors led to an invitation to speak at QYC’s annual general assembly. After inviting the QYC to the AGA in Old Nemaska, the Cree youth issued an open invitation, leading to visit by a contingent from the Atikamekw Nation Youth Council.

After resolutions were passed to bring back the regional canoe brigade and initiate a Nation-to-Nation table, CNYC decided to create a cultural exchange expedition.

“We’re inviting a small delegation from each Nation to come and have a canoe journey with us,” said Gunner. “We can exchange cultures or language so our youth are open to other First Nations and Inuit groups. We’ve yet to set a date or location but the idea is to canoe on a protected area to highlight protected areas of Eeyou Istchee.”

Invitations have also been extended to Naskapi and Innu youth along with the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Youth Network.

“Deputy Youth Grand Chief Jordan Masty said we’re going to need each other in the future,” Gunner shared. “It’s best to make these meaningful relationships earlier on in our lives rather than when it’s crucial.”

Wapachee appreciated the warm welcome in his home community and presented an education award, discussing how his generation was caught between traditional and modern systems.

“I went through elementary school while my parents were out hunting and trapping,” Wapachee recalled. “I learned from my father growing up and when I was taken away, I was able to engage in schooling. It empowered me – education is the future of our Cree Nation.”

Wapachee remembers when Matthew Coon Come’s father Alfred took the older boys out on the land for a week-long nomadic experience, walking with snowshoes and pulling toboggans around Mistassini Lake to camp and fish.

“I felt that was really who I was,” shared Wapachee. “We need to understand the histories of Aboriginal peoples and how federal policies have impacted us to understand our current issues. Once your vision is clear, it acts as a magnetic force that will pull you in the direction you want to go in life.”

Patrick Quinn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nation