The Council of Yukon First Nations is reviewing internal operations and surveying its membership before changing its mandate, post-land agreement negotiations.
Delegates at the general assembly in Moosehide unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday calling for a review to establish a clear direction for the council and determine what the organization actually does.
Before the resolution was brought forward, delegates debated restructuring behind closed doors.
The review is necessary before CYFN can move forward with restructuring itself into a “powerhouse” of a political organization, said Champagne/Aishihik Chief Diane Strand, who brought forward the resolution
“We’re trying to give a very clear mandate to the grand chief,” she said.
Strand remembers working with other First Nations on land settlement agreements. Once settlements were reached, everyone went home and started on their own issues, she said.
“Now, again, there are so many common issues we can work together on. We need to ensure we don’t reinvent the wheel 14 times,” said Strand.
“We’re not talking about just a political influence. Every influence you can imagine, whether that be in the arts sector, the economic sector or anything that we do. We have the power and people.”
The review will be completed by February, and will be followed by a special general assembly in the spring to discuss its conclusions.
Each council member nation will be surveyed to establish strengths and weaknesses, and where a new CYFN could help shore up local government power.
A new council would not look that different, said Tr’ondek Hwech’in Chief Darren Taylor, but it will become more effective and efficient by defining the roles of chiefs and departments.
With an increased focus on politics, a new council — essentially a First Nations “legislature” — would try and meet with the decision makers themselves, rather than bureaucrats, said Taylor.
“We’re a political organization and political people should be at the table discussing issues with us and coming to a consensus, and then devolving that down to the bureaucracy to ensure implementation,” he said.
The difficulty of restructuring has evolved while deciding what CYFN’s new role should be, and actually moving forward with change, said Strand.
The review will clarify current roles and bring together ideas for change, she added.
“We have our marching orders,” said Grand Chief Andy Carvill.
CYFN leadership will pull together a team to review each department and First Nation government and understand what each community needs for assistance.
First Nation governments will share powers to move CYFN from a society into a governance structure, said Carvill.
“Then we can better carry out a mandate. (But) when I say sharing powers, it’s not taking away anything from communities,” said Carvill.
Everyone the News spoke to declined to comment on how to increase CYFN’s political influence. They said the debate is only in its early stages.
Now that First Nations are focusing on Umbrella agreement implementation issues such as lack of funding and support, which CYFN has taken up as a cause, there’s a chance to install a new mandate, said Teslin Tlingit Chief Eric Morris.
“There is a need for a central body to advocate on our behalf,” said Morris. “We should not be seen as having our roles diminished because the work we’re doing has changed.
“We need to reconfigure ourselves to meet the needs of our communities.”