About 150 people representing each Eeyou/Eenou Istchee community gathered at the Mitchuap Banquet Hall September 5, 2018 for the inauguration of the Cree School Board's new chairperson Dr. Sarah Pashagumskum (Sarah Pash).
The official swearing-in ceremony took part within a special meeting of the Council of Commissioners, called to order by outgoing chairperson Kathleen Wootton. Following a synopsis of the vote by Director General Abraham Jolly, Pash read the oath of office before her extended family, colleagues, mentors, and others. Then, the official resolution confirming her as the new chairperson for the Cree School Board was adopted by council.
In her remarks, Pash spoke directly to students and teachers as well as to her colleagues on council and in the school board administration with words of inspiration and hope.
"Education is about moving into the future by looking forward from things as they are to things the way we want them to be," she said. "Education is an endeavour of hope and optimism. It’s about creating our future as communities and as a nation by investing in our youth, by investing in capacity development, by harnessing all of the potential of our young people, of our students, for the future."
She told students it is her fervent hope that they find their own unique place in creation and their "reason for being."
Pash reminded students of Grand Chief Dr. Billy Diamond's words:
“You have leadership and its up to you to find within yourself what that leadership is… get an education… use your imagination, there are no limits.”
"There are no limits to what you can do," she added.
Pash implored teachers to be role models for their students, to continue to inspire them.
"We are moving into an era where we are truly becoming determinants of our own destiny," she said. "Our school board, our schools will be a critical part of ensuring that this future is supported and developed."
Pash spoke directly about building a uniquely Cree education system, and the necessity for students, parents, communities and the nation to come together to build it.
In her notes, Pash referred to visionaries such as Nelson Mandela and John F. Kennedy.
Pash grew up in Chisasibi, and still calls the community her home. The respect for her leadership was evident in voter turnout in July for the election of CSB chairperson; out of a possible 10,000 voters, 3,175 cast ballots July 25, 2018 - a strong 31 per cent voter turnout for Eeyou-Eenou Istchee. Sarah Pash won 69.1 per cent of the votes, followed by incumbent Kathleen Wootton (who was CSB chairperson for seven years) at 18.8 per cent. Robert Auclair earned 12.1 per cent of the votes.
Following the inauguration and words of welcome by Chief Davey Bobbish of Chisasibi, light lunch was served. Entertainment included the George Swallow and the Heart of the Land drummers, Fiddler Conrad Rupert and his ensemble, along with the Waapinichikush Elementary School Square Dancers and the James Bay Eeyou School Square Dancers.
Also sworn in at the special council meeting were Brenda Hester, Commissioner for Waskaganish, Rachel Kawapit, Commissioner for Whapmagoostui, and Stella Lameboy, Commissioner for Wemindji.