All in the chief’s family

Eddie Skookum, chief of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, may have been re-elected by just five votes on Thursday, but he isn’t taking…

Eddie Skookum, chief of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, may have been re-elected by just five votes on Thursday, but he isn’t taking the narrow victory as an expression of doubt over his leadership.

“We’re first cousins,” he says of his challenger, “so it would take a toll on the family vote.”

So it goes in an election race for a First Nation of about 500 beneficiaries. Family allegiances often make or break electoral runs.

Skookum has been in power for 12 years, which puts him in the running for the title of Yukon’s longest-serving chief. He now has another four years ahead of him.

But blood ties are only one of many reasons why he faced his most difficult election race ever.

His challenger, George Skookum, is not just a first cousin. He’s a councillor with the First Nation. He’s an assistant finance director for the First Nation. And he’s popular in Carmacks for his volunteer work with children at the hockey rink, among other activities.

Not only did Skookum face a competent challenger, but the First Nation has some big issues ahead of it — the development of a contentious copper mine and an ongoing legal dispute with the Yukon government, which is wending its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, to name but two.

Yet neither candidate ran on much of a platform. And while these big issues loomed in the background, the election appeared to be dominated by more bread-and-butter issues.

Take housing. The First Nation owns more than 100 housing units. How it distributes these units is, no surprise, a source of controversy. There are only enough units to house a fraction of beneficiaries. Those who don’t get a unit are quick to allege nepotism. Clear rules on how housing is doled out currently do not exist, although the housing committee is working on such a set of rules.

In his online election pitch, Skookum made some strange statements about the housing situation given that he’s an incumbent hoping to be re-elected.

“Housing meetings should be held open to the public, that way everyone would know what was going on,” he wrote.

“One of the problems that will have to be dealt with is that the First Nation members are unaware of what is going on in the First Nation office. Every member should have the opportunity to know what is going on and have a chance to voice their opinions.”

In an interview, Skookum is less blunt.

Housing meetings have always been open to the public, he said. The problem is that not enough people attend such meetings.

To bolster understanding of the First Nation office’s workings, Skookum plans to restart the First Nation’s newsletter. He also hopes to hold more meetings in Whitehorse for beneficiaries who live in the city and currently feel “left out.”

And he plans to keep doing what he has always done, serving as a spokesman for the First Nation and a master of ceremonies at community potlatches and other events.

Beyond this, Skookum is reluctant to state any goals.

“I’m not going to say, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that. I’m going to wait for the council so we can all have a voice.”

Contact John Thompson at j

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Yukon could enter Phase 3 of COVID-19 reopening plan beginning of August, CMOH says

About 350 British Columbia residents have entered the Yukon since July 1 under new travel bubble

Recount confirms Charlie elected chief of Liard First Nation, Morgan threatens legal action

Recount held July 6 narrowed the margin between Stephen Charlie and George Morgan to just four votes

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, citizen both appeal residency requirement ruling

VGFN filed an application for an extension while Cindy Dickson filed a notice of appeal


Wyatt’s World for July 8, 2020

Motorcyclist, car passenger dead after crash on Alaska Highway near blue bridge

Motorcycle rider, 43, from Whitehorse and car passenger, 47, from Manitoba pronounced dead at scene

Carcross/Tagish First Nation election recount called off

Carcross/Tagish First Nation’s plans to hold a vote recount in a tight… Continue reading

Today’s mailbox: COVID reopening

Letter to the editor published July 3

Vuntut Gwitchin councillor submits resignation

Vuntut Gwitchin councillor Cheryl Charlie has submitted her resignation, leaving Chief Dana… Continue reading

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Ancient lake bed sediments, unusual plants are markers of the Takhini salt flats

It’s one of the Yukon’s best open geological secrets, a well-known but… Continue reading

Yukon University hires director of finance

Yukon University announced in a press release on June 29 that Sheila… Continue reading

Diamond Tooth Gerties to reopen

The Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) announced in a press release on June… Continue reading

Most Read