By NC Raine

Treaty 4 News spoke with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron, who also serves as the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief for Saskatchewan, about some of his reflections and major takeaways from 2016’s biggest stories. Part one was published yesterday; here is part two of our interview.

Treaty 4 News: The Colten Boushie murder sent shockwaves through the province, and I think evoked some of our province’s continued problems with racism. How much did the murder highlight an ugly side of Saskatchewan that still needs to be dealt with?

Chief Bobby Cameron: I grew up in North Battleford, so we’ve dealt with racism my entire life. It does highlight that the racism is there. It was such a tragic event. And the aftermath exposed just how bad racism still is in our province.  Sure, it’s in other areas of the country, but this our region. It really exposed people’s true colours here.

Our First Nations governments and Saskatchewan government, together, need to work to combat racism. How do we do that? We target the young ones. I’m talking kids in kindergarten. We’re not going to be able to change the minds of a 70 year old. But if we can start at a young age and eliminate racism, the next generations coming up behind us will have better relations [with one another]. We’ve got to target those young kids in elementary school. We can’t wait until high school – at that point, some of those students have their minds made up.

T4N: Were the La Loche shootings a reminder of how mental health is often neglected? 

BC: Mental health and wellness is one aspect, for sure. But, also an investment or focus into our youth. Not only in school but after school and in the weekends. If that means going into deficit within our respected offices and organizations, so be it. Our youth are the greatest resources we have in our communities and our lives.  And bullying and teasing in school has to be addressed. It can’t continue. Teachers really need to step up to the plate – address it and stop it before it escalates into what happened in La Loche. The young man was teased and given nicknames […] Parents, family, community members, teachers, elders, health and wellness staff members – everybody has a helping hand in addressing [bullying and mental health].

T4N: As a more positive story from the past year, you and the FSIN have been providing wild meat to people in need across the province. Why has this been an important initiative this year?

BC: Each of our First Nations has those hunters, fishers, trappers, who provide that meat, and that’s an awesome thing. It was part of our values in my family to share, to help one another, when people are in need. And the reality is that we have many people in the cities who are hungry everyday. In the spirit of Christmas, and in the spirit of sharing and kindness, we offer this to our First Nations memberships in the cities. We’re happy to do it. It feels good to help.

T4N: Finally, is there one highlight or best story from this past year that stands out to you?

BC: For me it was always the witnessing and being beside the elders when they celebrated their birthdays. Two of them were 104, and one was 105. They shared their wisdom, teaching, and values with me. That was my best experience of 2016.

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