Now, more than ever, Carmacks needs strong leadership.
And Eddie Skookum is not the man for the job.
Sure, he’s holding on to power, but members of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation should summarily turf him.
It’s not like the place is short of leaders.
Look no further than Lorraine O’Brien, a courageous woman who, singlehandedly, is standing up to the 56-year-old chief who beat his 21-year-old girlfriend bloody in Haines, Alaska, in July.
Skookum faced several serious charges until the battered woman decided not to testify against her partner.
In light of that, Alaska’s assistant district attorney dropped all charges against Skookum except the lesser charge of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor.
Now, Skookum is back home running the First Nation.
And calls for him to resign, which started while he was in a Juneau jail cell, have suddenly ended.
Except for O’Brien, who happens to be his cousin.
As long as he’s leader, it sends the message that violence against women and children is OK, she says.
And she’s right.
His booze-fueled assault has destroyed his credibility, and should make him ineligible to lead an influential First Nation.
Violence against women is a scourge in Yukon society. And it is far worse in aboriginal communities.
Aboriginal women are more likely to get murdered than any other demographic of women in Canada, according to Courtney Wheelton, who is researching the subject for the Aboriginal Women’s Council.
After delving into the issue for just a month, she identified 22 aboriginal women from the Yukon who have gone missing or been murdered. They are going to be added to the names of 582 women who have vanished across the country, according to a database collected by the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Another bloody statistic to further define this situation is that between 2000 and 2008, 153 aboriginal women were murdered in Canada.
Native women make up only three per cent of the nation’s population, but, in that eight-year period, they represented fully 10 per cent of the women murdered in this country.
And, in Carmacks, you have this guy who drank too much and then beat a young woman bloody insisting he’s still a credible leader within his community.
What message does that send?
And then, when CHON FM ran a story critical of Skookum’s leadership, the chief left a voice mail on the station’s answering machine threatening legal action.
This guy is a leader?
Skookum, who has three prior assault charges in his file from the early ‘90s, also recently waved away tough questions from CBC Radio One reporters, insisting he can’t “heal” when people are judging him.
And this guy calls himself a leader.
In a small town, within her own family, O’Brien is standing up and holding a violent man accountable for his actions.
Society needs to stand up and say this is not OK, she said.
She’s delivering this message with shockingly little community support.
Not only is she right, she is also remarkably courageous. A leader in her community.
Carmacks would do well to reflect on that. (Richard Mostyn)