Leading a First Nation can present its own unique challenges compared to municipal or territorial politics, says former Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Chief Diane Strand.
Constituents and colleagues are also often family, when you’re working with a community you’ve been around your entire life.
“You’re much more accountable. Right now the territorial government and the federal government, they don’t have that accountability to their next-door neighbour as closely,” she said.
“They can turn it off and say ‘It’s our political party that makes us do this.’ Whereas, ‘No, we were at that council meeting and we heard you and you came to my house.’”
Strand is one of two First Nations women who are running a leadership training course this month at Yukon College.
The First Nations Leadership Training program is a crash course in leadership and management.
For a week, students hear from speakers and discuss topics ranging from governing fundamentals and different leadership styles to land claim agreements, strategic planning and memoranda of understanding.
Classes start on Jan. 19, and the last day to apply is Jan. 16.
It’s aimed both at people who are considering a role within a First Nation and those who are already in leadership positions.
The course has run various forms since 2011. It was originally only available to chiefs and councillors across the territory.
In 2013 the college expanded the course, run out of Whitehorse, to include people who are considering a leadership position.
Approximately 85 chiefs and councillors have completed the program as well as about 35 students in Whitehorse.
Geri-Lee Buyck took the course last March, one month after she was elected as a youth councillor with First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun.
She said the classes really got her thinking about important topics like legislation and policy implementation, strategic planning and budgeting, and “how to move forward and lead a strong organization.”
Buyck has already recommended it to other people. “I got so much out of it. You just feel very empowered.”
This is the first time that the course is being run by two First Nations people: Strand and Shadelle Chambers, a councillor with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.
Stand said both she and Chambers have experience working in multiple positions with the First Nation.
“We’ve worked at the First Nations at various levels and so there’s the authenticity of, ‘Yeah, I know what you’re talking about.’”
That same goal, to connect to past experience, is why former chiefs and grand chiefs have been brought in to speak to classes, she said.
“When you bring a previous chief in, they can actually talk about, ‘This is what the people were saying at the time.’ And now how has that evolved and how has that changed as we look at today’s everyday activities and responsibilities at the governance level.”
Strand was chief from 2006 to 2010. Looking back, she says she absolutely could have used a course like this.
“I believe that I thought that I knew what I was getting into, because I had been working at the First Nations for 10 years before I ran for chief. I thought I knew. I didn’t know.”
Aside from governing fundamentals, the course also puts a lot of focus on self-awareness, she said. Students are given tools and test to see what kind of leader they are and how they might react in certain situations.
“You’re actually doing a lot of self reflection and really thinking about who you are and how would you react in these situations. I think that would have really benefited me.”
For more information on this course or to register, contact Michael Kulachkosky at 867-456-8577.
Contact Ashley Joannou at