By Rick Garrick
Fort William Chief Georjann Morriseau and possible federal Liberal candidate, credits volunteerism, ceremony and her family for her success as one of the youngest female chiefs across the country.
“It was the volunteering that helped expose me to different circles of communities and First Nation issues and justice,” says the 30-year-old chief of the Robinson Superior community. “I do keep ceremony in my life — I still keep that really close to me, the simple gesture of laying tobacco is something that I still practice. Knowing that I have a good support group is what keeps me achieving success, because I can’t achieve it on my own. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all these different people in my life.”
Morriseau began volunteering after the birth of her second son and has since volunteered with many social and advocacy-type projects.
“Whatever I could do to be involved, I wanted to be involved,” Morriseau says. “What it ended up giving me was more knowledge at the end of the day, and giving me a better understanding so when I got into certain situations, I could relate better. And I can then give that back and help a little bit more.”
One of Morriseau’s first volunteer efforts in her community was helping to organize youth governance workshops.
“It was about how to develop a youth council or youth group and integrate your culture and your language and to understand your history and what our traditional governance was like,” Morriseau says. “We had a lot of youth coming out and at the end of it we had a Regional Youth Think Tank. It was amazing to see all these young people come from all over Ontario to offer their input on where they saw their future going.”
Morriseau’s world view changed after she began studying Aboriginal Law and Advocacy at Confederation College.
“I started looking at First Nation issues from a different perspective and in different contexts because I grew up on the reserve all my life,” Morriseau says. “I actually started to have more of an appreciation for being a First Nations person in Canada.”
When her name was put forward for the band council election in 2011, Morriseau thought: “What will be will be — only the creator knows what is going to happen at the end of the day.”
“And sure enough I got elected to council,” Morriseau says. “Being on council was really different because you got to see what it was like to lead your community but also how hard it really was to affect change when everyone has all these different ideas.”
Morriseau says she was “pretty vocal” while on council.
“I’ve always been true to my convictions and to our integrity as a community,” Morriseau says. “We can do what we want to do — the sky is the limit in terms of opportunity for our community. There is a lot of potential here.”
Morriseau says her election run for chief in 2013 was not a decision she made lightly.
“I went through ceremonies for it,” Morriseau says. “I really thought what should I do because I didn’t know if I was ready, but at the end of the day when are you ever going to know if you are ready.”
Morriseau hopes her success inspires other young women to strive for leadership roles in their communities.
“I’m now starting to see more young women and more women take on these leadership roles,” Morriseau says. “If it can inspire our young people to step up to that plate and be leaders, then I feel I have accomplished what I set to to accomplish.”
The Chief announced earlier this week that she will be making the jump to the federal politics, putting her name in the ring running for the federal Liberals in the Thunder Bay Rainy River riding.