The Vuntut Gwitchin election wasn’t scheduled until March, but by the time nominations closed at 2 p.m. on Thursday, the Old Crow-based First Nation had a new forthcoming chief and council.
Former chief Joe Linklater was acclaimed to the post again after a one-year hiatus. He was the chief for 12 years before resigning in late 2010.
Three new councillors were also acclaimed. They join Margaret Smith, the only councillor who is left from the 2010 election. They are Bonnie Bingham, Paul Josie and Brandon Kyikavichik.
The three new councillors may be young – several are in their 20s – but they are not completely inexperienced, Chief Norma Kassi said on Friday morning.
Kyikavichik was appointed to council in 2010, but he quit just months into the job.
“I am sure he has learned a lot from the time he has spent in our office,” said Kassi. “We did a lot of good education with him, so hopefully that will help him this time around.”
Josie served a stint as Kassi’s executive assistant this past year.
“He’s just such an incredibly nice person,” said Kassi. “He’s always very helpful in the community and he’s traditional. He has very good traditional qualities.”
Bingham rounds out the four-person council. She has extensive programming experience from her prenatal work at Skookum Jim Friendship Centre in Whitehorse. More recently, she moved to Old Crow to act as the health director.
“I feel good that they’re young people, they’re stepping forward and, hopefully, by the time this term is over, they’ll be groomed enough so they could take the top job,” said Kassi, who is resigning after just one year as chief.
The new chief and council will serve until the end of the four-year term that started in late 2010.
Some of the new councillors were shocked at how fast things happened after gathering their 25 signatures and submitting their nomination packages on Thursday, said Kassi.
“There were no challengers,” Kassi explained. “But that’s how it is. You put your name forward for leader and that’s what happens, right? You’ve just got to go with it after that.”
Kassi is hopeful the young leaders will have a good influence on the community.
A main goal for her own leadership has been to reach out and nurture the younger generation, who seem to be getting lost, said Kassi.
“A couple of (the new councillors) are quite young, they’re in their 20s,” she said. “The young people are their peers and they are leaders now, so whatever they do, as role models, that’s what’s going to have an impact on the younger people in the community.”
Kassi said she plans to never be more than a “phone call away” for the new leadership.
Even with her extensive experience in politics – she was the NDP MLA for many years – she said she found the past year as chief a “tremendous” learning experience.
The remote community is in need of some healing, she said. She’d like to see her people become more united.
For the immediate future, Kassi said she plans on moving back to Whitehorse and taking some time to think and reflect.
She will meet with Linklater and the new council on Monday to set up a transition schedule and a swearing-in date.
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