Maskwacis youth speak at native development conference

“We’re going to be the next leaders of our community.” Ashley Dennehy, Samson Cree Nation member

Ashley Dennehy

Ashley Dennehy

Two Maskwacis youth had their voices heard recently during a conference aimed at the advancement of First Nations economic development officers.

Ashley Dennehy, of the Samson Cree Nation and Danielle Lightning of the Ermineskin Cree Nation, took part in a national native youth panel at the Council for Advancement of Native Development Officers (CANDO) conference in Nanaimo, B.C. from Sept. 22 to 25.

CANDO was founded by economic development officers across the country in 1990 as a non-profit society aimed at enhancing the skills of First Nations development officers. Ten years ago the group started the youth panel to recognize their successes.

Dennehy and Lightning were nominated to be part of a six-member youth panel to speak on projects they have been working on. Dennehy says the panel is one of the more popular segments of the conference as attendees are eager to hear about exciting new projects.

“We’re going to be the next leaders of our community,” she added.

While most of their stories involved entrepreneurship, Dennehy’s focus has been more on social change. She has taken part in projects in Africa and a Walk for Water initiative in Maskwacis. Dennehy says she focuses her time on social justice issues.

The panel also gave her an opportunity to get some inspiration and work closely with different groups. “I thought we had a lot of overlap and potential networking opportunities.”

“It just gives me hope for the future of our communities,” she added.

For Lightning, the experience was an opportunity to be inspired by the activities of her fellow panel members. She has two more years of education at Grant MacEwan University with a major in management studies.

Lightning was inspired by the work of fellow panelist, Michael Peters of the Glooscap First Nation in Nova Scotia. She feels his story helps paint the picture of what she aspires to do.

“It’s nice to know what he’s done to get where he is,” she explained.

Lightning’s journey started with the desire to own a fashion business. After receiving necessary certificates to pursue the career, she realized she needed a business background. Lightning had to overcome several obstacles in order to be accepted at Grant MacEwan and it took her three tries before the school accepted her application.

“Every time I reach that goal, I make more goals,” said Lightning.

She told her story to attendees at the conference and feels each of the youth panelists’ goals are similar, they just got there through different paths. Lightning feels she and Dennehy made the Maskwacis community proud.