The village of Waswanipi has become the latest Quebec Cree community to elect women to the positions of both chief and deputy chief.
The election took place on August 31 in Waswanipi, a community of over 2,000 people located about 750 kilometers north of Montreal.
Businesswoman Eileen Nieposh was elected chief. The band’s Capital Works director, Rhonda O’Brien Cooper, was elected vice-president. Both women were elected on the first ballot.
“I am very humbled by this outcome,” said Nieposh.
“I am extremely grateful and honored that my community knows that I have the ability to lead.”
Eleanor Gull was one of seven MPs who voted on August 31st. She also appreciates the trust of her voters and said she is delighted to be a part of such a change in local leadership.
“It’s the first time that two people have been elected. [women] We are holding these positions,” Gall said.
large number of young voters
Nearly 50% of Waswanipi’s population is under the age of 30. This is not lost on the candidate, nor on Chief Return Officer John Henry his Wapachee.
“The highlight of my career was when I saw many young people walking. [in] That door to vote for and be a part of history… Watching them come and do their civic responsibility was a moment I will never forget,” Wapachie wrote on Facebook.
Gal also said high turnout among young voters is an important change.
“Thank you to our young people for coming out to vote,” she said. “I think they want to be part of the conversation and want their voices to be heard.”
The Rise of Women in Cree Politics
In 2020, Chisasibi’s largest Cree community elected Daisy House as Chief. Paula Napash was elected to the office of deputy secretary when her opponent declined the runoff vote.
Last year, the entire Cree community made history by electing the first female Grand Chief at Mandi Gal Masti.
Gull Masti from Waswanipi posted on Facebook that he wished Kneeposh and Obryn Cooper the best of luck.
“I am excited to see what comes out of my community and to welcome Chief Eileen to the CNG Council table in a new role,” she said. She also thanked her outgoing Chief, Marcel Happyjac.
Prior to his election, Neeposh was a businessman, consultant, leader, and local representative on the Cree government’s Board of Trustees, which meets several times a year.
Housing, addiction among priorities
In 2020, Neeposh was also responsible for finalizing the results of consultations on private home ownership. Market research: Private housing in Eeyou Istchee.
During the campaign, Nieposh identified economic development, employment and housing among its priorities.
“We will continue to increase housing options through programs and services such as tenancy agreements and financial and homeowner coaching,” Nyposh said during the campaign.
She also said she will prioritize community-based addiction recovery programs and plans to open an employment center in Waswanipi to centralize information and provide career counseling.
Kneeposh won the first ballot with 54% of the vote, and Obryn Cooper won with 57.7% of the vote.
Obrin Cooper most recently worked as director of capital works in Waswanipi, but has also spent time as a local councilor and representative on the Cree Government Council, and has served on other commissions and councils.
“[My priority] Mental Health and How We Can Integrate [Cree culture and language and Cree knowledge and skills] within our control. To do that, we will need input from our elders,” Obryn Cooper said via Facebook Messenger.