Brooklyn Sawyer, Cailen Hanzlik and Summer Fisher 2017 Youth Council candidates.

By Kelly Anne Smith

NIPISSING FIRST NATION – Nipissing First Nation governance wants the Youth to have an official voice at the community’s decision table.

Originally, Miss Nipissing First Nation Angel Armstrong went to Chief McLeod with the idea of starting up the Youth Council. “I met with the Chief to discuss the importance of hearing the voices of our youth.”

Three positions have been created on the new Youth Council with the first candidates meeting taking place October 25 to fill them come election time.

Nipissing First Nation Councillor Cory Goulais explained that the Youth will be exposed as to how politics work. “They need to have a say on everything in the community. “They are our future leaders. We want to start teaching them now. We are also going to bring them on the road with us to regional, provincial and national meetings. They will get to see what it’s all about.”

“Tonight is a Candidate Night for the Youth of Garden Village.  We will do the same for the youth of Duchesney Village. We will then have the election at a teen dance here. The next morning, we are having our community meeting and we will introduce the Youth Chief, (Youth) Deputy Chief and (Youth) Secretary to the community the next morning.”

A few giggles were heard as the serious meeting proceeded. Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod, pleased with the interest, spoke to the young people who stepped forward in the leadership race. “There are many Youth in the Council Chambers tonight with nine coming forward, pledging to take responsibility to lead their community.”

All of the candidates made their speeches in Anishinaabemowin.  First, Andrea Goulais asked for the people’s confidence to elect her as Secretary. Goulais is a grade eleven student who likes to help kids after school. She sits on many boards and will travel to Ottawa to do a presentation for teachers. She enjoys teaching about culture.

Next, children’s book author Kiley George spoke of being of from the wolf clan and that culture is very important to her.  She says her work on the RCMP National Youth Advisory Committee as good experience to be Deputy Chief. “We will work together to make a healthier place to live.”

In her speech for Deputy Chief, 15 year old Brooklyn Sawyer talked about the importance of getting involved in one’s community. “I want our Youth to have a stronger voice in our community.” Sawyer said she is trying to get involved with everything she can.

Gracie Couchie is in the race for Deputy Chief as well. “Culture and language are very important to me. I want to be the voice for others. Youth are the future leaders and we will debate about how to go on.”

The first up to speak on becoming Youth Chief, 14 year old Tia Solomon, said everyone should vote for her because, “I’m pretty much a cousin of everyone here.” She added that she is a strong speaker that will be heard and is strong in the language.

Running for Youth Chief, Cailen Hanzlik, is a Grade 10 student athlete who is bilingual and an Anishinaabemowin learner. Hanzlik enjoys public speaking and learning new things, “Such as stories about my culture.”  She says she wants to represent the community proudly, respectfully and seriously.

In her speech for Youth Chief, Summer Fisher said she is excited the Youth are working together to make a change on Nipissing First Nation. She added she would work towards starting a Youth drop-in centre. “I’m always here to listen and want to be that someone to talk to.”

Kelsey Borgford talked about her experience on Nbisiing Secondary School student council as positive for being a stronger voice in our governance. As the Youth Chief, Borgford said she would be outspoken on issues that matter. She is a poet who gives tobacco teachings and a jingle dress dancer, “To heal those around me.”

After the speeches were delivered, piles of pizzas were devoured by the candidates and their supporters.  The next “meet the youth candidates” meeting is on November 8 in Duchesnay Village at Nbisiing Secondary School.

The election for the Nipissing First Nation Youth Chief, Deputy Chief and Youth Secretary is on November 17. A youth dance is planned for the evening and a community breakfast with the following day. Candidates and voters must be between 13 and 22 years of age, from Nipissing First Nation and attending school.