I have chosen not to speak my mind for fear of retaliation on my family residing in the community because of my opinion; as a Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation Citizen and a citizen of Canada I have repressed my fundamental right to the freedom of speech due to fear that implicitly haunts the community.
A few years ago, a group of young women I belonged to got together and stopped a church from being built on a burial ground.
Chief Eddie Skookum threatened one of the young ladies by stating she would lose her employment because the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation is shareholder in her now-former place of employment.
Which brings me to a troubling behaviour and representation of our leadership as a self-governing nation: Eddie Skookum, the current chief of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation is displaying a blatant disregard for our constitution, and ruling like an authoritarian.
If you look at Canadian society or any western developed nation, an elected leader or political official would not hold office and would be petitioned to resign and the people would lobby for their resignation after the king of reckless, irresponsible behaviour Skookum displayed in the summer of 2010 in Alaska.
Skookum showed no respect for our people when he tried to use the defence of diplomatic immunity, and by using our government for personal gain.
Instead of owning up to his crime and mistakes and resigning his position, he continued with his authoritarian regime. A former First Nation leader once said, “A chief must not seek profit for himself.”
A chief is someone who looks at the community as a whole and takes into account how they, as a leader, represent the people.
I ask the people with voting power in our nation to consider the past 12 years or so, and ask where is the progress?
What type of leadership do we seek?
Is it ethically OK and morally OK to have a man convicted of a crime as our leader, and where is his credibility?
Our constitution has been amended and now contradicts itself, making it virtually impossible to remove the leadership. Instead of a full election, a byelection is called for deputy chief and Crow councillor.
When casting your vote, consider the candidates and how they will represent you. Keep in mind the millions of dollars in deficit our nation is in and how we are publicly viewed through our leadership.
Who will have a voice for the people at the leadership level? We are supposed to be a democratic society and what does that look like?
Remember, in a democracy, the voice comes from the people. Consider our leadership as we move forward as a self-governing nation.
I, for one, do not want a leader who has an aggressive and abusive history of violence against women, and for our community to re-elect, on a so-called democratic ballot, a leader who pleads guilty to a lesser charge.
My fellow citizens, consider the candidate you cast your vote for and take a look at the big picture Ã who we are as a nation and what we stand for. Our elected officials represent who we are as citizens of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation.
The following quote, from Many Horses, captures hundreds of years of movement toward self government.
“I will follow the white man’s trail. I will make him my friend, but I will not bend my back to his burdens. I will be cunning as a coyote. I will ask him to help me understand his ways, and then I will prepare the way for my children and their children. The Great Spirit has shown me Ã a day will come when they will outrun the white man in his own shoes.”
The quote got me thinking about my grandfather, who teaches us our culture and traditions. He says, “Two cultures walking side by side.” Like all wise and great leaders gifted with the encumbrance of leading a nation, he advocated, negotiated and led his people into self-government and political autonomy.
The agreements were intended for us to maintain our cultural identities and heritage while integrating the laws of western society. Setting us free from the Indian Act and governing ourselves.
As most of our nations have settled their agreements and have moved into the implementation of the agreements and are looking at sustainability and progressive movement, building upon what was started back in the 1960s with the Northern Native Brotherhood, remember words spoken from another great leader: “Together today for our children tomorrow.”
When casting your vote, consider the qualities of these leaders and what they represent and how they led their people: Elijah Smith, Roddy Blackjack, Taylor McGundy, Many Horses, Sitting Bull and many more great leaders in First Nation history that structure our current way of life.
And more importantly, consider the qualities and attributes, as leaders, that they are remembered and recognized for.