At just 33-years-old, the new grand chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations is much younger than the 16 other chiefs he’ll be representing in central and northern Alberta.
But Chief William (Billy) Morin of Enoch Cree Nation, just west of Edmonton, is ready to dive right in.
“I’m pretty young but I’m not that young, and I see myself as a bridge builder between generations,” Morin said in an interview on CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active on Tuesday.
“And I look forward to the challenge of creating spaces where different generations come together because treaty is truly working together, finding common ground, and we’re all going to live here at the end of the day.”
Morin, whose mandate is to represent the chiefs and more than 100,000 First Nations members within the Treaty 6 boundaries west of the Alberta/Saskatchewan border, is not surprised the chiefs appointed him.
“They want to see some new energy. They want to see some different ways of thinking, a new generation, because that’s the majority of the population now,” he said.
Morin, whose nation has a mutual benefits agreement with the corporation behind the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, also brings a strong business background to the leadership of Treaty 6.
While sentiments toward major energy projects are mixed, reconciling strong environmental concerns among many younger members of the First Nations with economic development, is possible, he said.
“I think there just has to be a concerted effort to invest those profits into more sustainable businesses.”
The millennial chief, a project management and civil engineering graduate of Edmonton’s Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), admits he has a traditional learning curve ahead.
“I see myself as a reflection of the young First Nations population at this point so we’re very educated,” he said. “Our new education is actually coming back to the nation and leaning on our elders for language and culture and using that to balance out our Western education.
“So in Enoch, bringing language and culture back has translated into more unity in the nation, it’s translated to more identity, it’s translated into a brand going forward, it’s translated into just good feelings.”
In addition to drawing more attention to education, language and culture, Morin hopes to build the confederacy up over the year with a strengthened treaty relationship with the federal government, the private sector, and the province.
His term runs to the end of the year.