North

History made after Chisasibi elects 2 women as chief, deputy chief

For the first time in its history, the largest of the Quebec Cree communities has elected women as both chief and deputy chief.

Daisy House elected chief, Paula Napash elected deputy chief

Daisy House served as deputy chief of the Cree Nation of Chisasibi for 13 years since 2007. House won the race for chief with 83 per cent of the 1,187 ballots cast. (Submitted by Daisy House)

For the first time in its history, the largest of the Quebec Cree communities has elected women as both its chief and deputy chief.

"History was made. It is the first time in Chisasibi that women are elected for chief and deputy chief, who will serve their people," said newly elected Cree Nation of Chisasibi Chief Daisy House. 

"I am very happy and grateful."

Chisasibi's election was held on Aug. 21.

According to Chisasibi's election bylaws, candidates are allowed to run for both chief and deputy chief positions. House ran for both positions and won the race for chief with 83 per cent of the 1,187 ballots cast. 

I am honoured to serve our people, to lead our people, to work with Chisasibi.- Daisy House, chief of Cree Nation of Chisasibi

That left two candidates in a runoff election for deputy chief. After Pauline Lameboy withdrew, the remaining candidate for deputy chief, Paula Napash, won by acclamation. Napash has served as a councillor since 2018 and as the former youth chief.  

"We are listening and we hear what you want and need," wrote Napash in a Facebook post. "We will work hard and do to the best of our abilities to try to make things happen."  

"I am honoured to serve our people, to lead our people, to work with Chisasibi," said House, who served as deputy chief for 13 years since 2007.

During that time, she worked with three different chiefs: Abraham Rupert, Roderick Pachano and most recently Davey Bobbish.

Sixty per cent of the Chisasibi population of more than 5,000 is under the age of 30 years old, according to House. 

"We must work hard to ensure there is employment and economic development," said House, adding that her other priorities include housing, elder services and education.

House said the new leadership will count on the example of the ancestors in choosing its path. 

Politics runs in the family

According to records at the Cree Cultural Institute in Chisasibi, House's late great-grandfather Peter House served as chief of Fort George a century ago from 1920 to 1930.

"It was only last week that I knew my late great-grandfather, Pete Waaskahiikin as he was known, was chief back in 1920," said House. Waaskahiikin means "house" in Eastern James Bay Cree.

According to records at the Cree Cultural Institute in Chisasibi, House's late great-grandfather Peter House served as chief of Fort George a century ago from 1920 to 1930. (Archives Deschâtelets/Chisasibi Heritage & Cultural Centre)

Fort George is the former community of Chisasibi before its relocation in 1981 due to the James Bay hydroelectric development. 

"My late grandfather, David House used to tell me his father [Peter House] was a great man," said House. "That is a remarkable milestone that my ancestor was a chief."

There are still 11 seats for councillors to be filled in the upcoming elections. CBC contacted the local returning officer for the date of election, but has not heard back.

"I have always said that no one can do things alone, together as a community, everyone's contribution is needed," said House. 

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