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Management Mi’kmaq chief Manon Jeannotte on the biggest challenge for aboriginal people and the power of technology

Manon Jeannotte, chief of the Mi'kmaq Nation of Gespeg, poses for a portrait in Ottawa on Dec. 4, 2018.

Dave Chan/Globe and Mail

Manon Jeannotte is the chief of the Mi’kmaq Nation of Gespeg. She has more than 14 years of experience working in the community, where the first role she occupied was councillor for the urban region of Montreal. She graduated from the McGill-HEC Executive MBA program in 2016.

I grew up in between Montreal, Lanaudiere and Gaspesie, as we are nomad people. I don’t recall my earliest leadership experience, but from a young age I have always been a person of integrity who was involved in my community, which led people to follow me, I imagine.

I always go with the flow, just like a river. Living in a community mode has helped me stay grounded and determine the priorities for the survival of the population, as well as the longevity of the environment.

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If I have one thing to teach non-aboriginal people, it is a holistic vision of the world, and putting collective needs ahead of individualistic ones. A leader must be careful with this, because at the non-aboriginal level, the needs of an enterprise and its shareholders are oftentimes put ahead of our collective needs. Aboriginal communities always think of the sea and land prior to potential economic development.

In an aboriginal community such as mine, the elders and the youth occupy a very important role. We always take advice from our elders, while taking into consideration our next generations. Any decision that is made in an aboriginal community must encompass the respect of the next seven generations and of the environment.

The biggest challenge for aboriginal people in the future is to be respected, recognized and autonomous. We are always seated between two chairs, but will be fully autonomous once we finally have the capacity, the ability and the possibility to lead our own people.

I do not believe in people being segregated as being generation X, Y or Z. The way people decide to live, as well as the relationships they choose to prioritize, is what makes them who they are. If we were to follow the definitions given to generations X, Y and Z, all aboriginal people would fall into generation Y as they put family above all else.

Technology has the power to change any field, including aboriginal communities. It helps bring all aboriginal communities together – across Quebec, Canada and the world. Social media platforms, as well as video conferences, can help communities brainstorm and tackle issues together at any time.

Everyone has blind spots. I used to find excuses for the mistakes people made around me, and I often ended up paying the price for these mistakes. This has taught me to be more attentive and judge situations in an analytical way, as opposed to simply trusting people and following gut feelings.

My passion is learning. I learn new things and acquire new skills every day, and it is what keeps me going. I believe that everyone has the power and ability to learn something new every day, and that education can help make the world a better place.

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Staying true to yourself is the best career advice anyone can receive. By staying close to people and living life in a simple manner, everyone has the ability to stay grounded and life a full and wholesome life.

With a file from Genevieve Cote.

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