Anastasia Qupee of Sheshatshiu has been recognized by the Human Rights Commission for her lifelong contribution to human rights in this province.
Qupee was one of two recipients of the Human Rights Champion Award, presented during a ceremony at Government House in St. John’s on Dec 6.
A role model in her community, Qupee was first female chief of Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, serving two terms from 2004-10.
She was also the first female Grand Chief of Innu Nation (Sheshatshiu and Natuashish) — a position she held from 2014-17.
Qupee currently works as Social Health Director for Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation.
Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation has always believed that children in care should be kept within the community, Qupee said.
The new Children, Youth and Families Act that will replace the Children and Youth Care and Protection Act will help ensure that happens, she said.
“We’ve always said that children in care should be at home and that we be a part of that,” she said. “It’s good that’s now being recognized and put into legislation… recognizing Innu children because of their culture and language.”
Qupee said it’s important that all levels of government and government agencies recognize Innu culture and language – in education, health, child welfare, justice and all other areas.
Qupee is chair of the board of the Charles J. Andrew Youth Treatment Centre and previously served as a member of the Labrador Grenfell Regional Authority and the Innu Nation.
She is also a board member for the Labrador Wellness Centre that will be built in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
“I believe that everybody wants to achieve better health outcome and we’re no different,” she said. “Having a facility that can accommodate a lot of people and educate them about the importance of wellness and their wellbeing… will help them achieve better health outcomes.”
Qupee has had many role models over the years – some still living and some who have passed on.
“They all taught me a lot and now, to see the emerging young leaders that I work with, the young women, I feel like there is a lot of potential and opportunity and hope for our community,” she said.
When asked to name her biggest role model, Qupee spoke about her mother, Mani Aten Andrew (who died in 1996).
“My mom grew up out on the land. They were nomadic people — they settled in the community of Sheshatshiu,” Qupee said.
Qupee said she was both surprised and honoured when she heard she would be recognized by the Human Rights Commission.
“I was so honoured to be in the presence of the other recipients,” she noted. “We all have a common goal of working towards the betterment of our communities. There are lots of people doing good work out there.”
Qupee was also happy to have her daughter with her at the awards ceremony. She felt it was good for Meeka (Qupee) to hear about the other award winners and the good they are doing for their communities.
Meeka said her mother has been the greatest influence in her life.
“She taught me how to be independent, how to make strong family connections, and how to set goals to become a strong women. Through positive and negative times growing up, I have used every experience as a life lesson, and something to grow from,” the 17-year-old said.
Meeka said her mother taught her to never belittle anyone and to try to educate people the best she could.
Being at the awards ceremony with her mother was both an emotional experience but a great eye-opener for the young woman.
“I’m so proud of my mom,” Meeka said. “Growing up just watching the incredible things she’s done for our family and community, she’s finally got something to show her dedication. It’s all falling into place for her and it will only get better.”
Other award winners
Joanne Thompson, executive of the Gathering Place in St. John’s was also named a Human Rights Champion while Kim White of Twillingate (who currently lives in St. John’s) was presented with the 2018 Human Rights Award.