Growing up in Sheshatshiu, Anastasia Qupee’s education in leadership came from sitting around her mother’s kitchen table.
Qupee was the first Innu woman to become chief of the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation Band Council and served two terms from 2004 to 2010. She currently works as the human resources director for the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation and spoke Friday at an Ovations Leadership Lunch and Learn Session at the Greenwood Inn and Suites in Corner Brook.
The Ovations sessions are organized by a committee of representatives from the community, business, industry and government. Partners in the initiative include the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs and the provincial government. Sessions have also been held in Clarenville and Grand Falls-Windsor, and the final one will take place in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on May 9.
Qupee told those gathered about her desire to be part of making a change and difference in her community and how it all stemmed from her mother.
“She worked hard,” Qupee said following her presentation. “She didn’t know English, didn’t speak English.”
She said it was her mother that kept the family intact and instilled in her children the notion to work hard.
“Her kitchen table was her boardroom table,” said Qupee, adding it was where her mother talked about issues facing the community and how she saw change was coming.
When Qupee made the decision to run for chief, she spoke with some women elders in the community. She said their reaction wasn’t immediate, but later they told her if it was what she wanted to do and believed that she could do it, then she should.
She quickly found that, as chief, men seem to instantly have resources around them.
“But I found that I had to really work at doing that for me.”
Part of her goal for the community was to take it out of third party management.
“Once we got out of third party management and recognized that we were serious about taking control, we got control of our funding programs.”
A couple of years later came control of the education system.
“So to me that’s a real change and a real change for the community to come and say this is how we want our education system to be run,” said Qupee.
She said the change was not without resistance as people didn’t understand how being in third party management was holding the community back.
“Because you can’t go forward, and I wanted to go forward and in order to do that I had to bring people on board.”
For Qupee being a leader doesn’t just mean being in a position, it also means doing the work.
She said she likes to leave other women with the message to take every opportunity that they have and to believe in themselves.
Qupee’s mother died before she became chief and when asked what she thought her mother would say at her kitchen table today, she replied: “She would say I am so proud of you. I’m so proud that you go out into the community, that you talk to people because that is exactly what I would have liked to done.”