Back to work for Carcross/Tagish

UPDATED VERSION The barricades and chains have been removed from the entrance of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation government's administrative building. On Thursday afternoon, government workers returned to their offices while leaders sat around a table with many of the dissidents.


The barricades and chains have been removed from the entrance of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation government’s administrative building.

On Thursday afternoon, government workers returned to their offices while leaders sat around a table with many of the dissidents.

It was the first of many discussions, say both sides.

“I think everyone’s feeling pretty positive about it right now, in terms of it’s a step forward in clearing up all these issues,” said Albert James, on behalf of the frustrated citizens.

The central issue is the government’s clan and appointment system.

“It’s not necessarily that they’re saying they want to go back to chief and council, but they want to review some of the leadership stuff,” said Chief Mark Wedge. “And that’s something that the community has to decide – the broader community – all of our citizens.”

For nearly a decade, the Carcross/Tagish First Nation has used the traditional clan system.

The leadership structure is different than the chief and council system used in most other self-governing First Nations in the territory.

For Carcross/Tagish, there are six clans of various sizes. The smallest has only six members.

Within each clan, a housemaster or clan leader, called an Auxadi, is selected as well as a matriarch, which is usually the eldest female.

Each clan must also select a representative for the executive council. One representative sits on the council from each clan and it is this group that makes the day-to-day decisions.

The selection process for this executive council representative is up to each of the six clans to decide on their own.

The clan leaders then appoint the spokesperson for the First Nation, called the Kha Shade Heni, who is commonly referred to as the chief by outsiders.

This spokesperson must be appointed from the representatives on the executive council. The clan leaders usually decide by consensus.

And this system sparked the protest.

“We have virtually no say or consultation into the First Nation office,” said James.

But the government hasn’t been ignorant of these woes, said Wedge.

“There’s some common, overlapping issues,” he said, mentioning that reviewing the clan system was already on the table, within the executive.

“We do want to move forward with change and we recognize that we need to be better at communicating with the broader citizenship,” he said.

The government discovered its reforms, based in a strategic model called the Theory of Change, were largely misunderstood, misinformed or not communicated at all with the community, said Wedge.

Many saw the protest as a simple reaction to the reforms of the First Nation’s temporary financial assistance program.

Through the First Nation’s Theory of Change, funds were being redirected to a transitional employment program to help dependants find jobs.

On the ground, this left many citizens without cheques and little understanding of why.

Some protestors did know about the transitional employment program. Some even participated it in for a while.

Some of those participants don’t agree with the program and claimed they were protesting to have a say in the matter.

All of the protesters ignited into yells, tsks and shaking heads when it was alleged that their efforts were about money, alone.

Both Wedge and James say social assistance is not the main focus of their current discussions.

These discussions, between executive council members and six of the dissidents, will be worked into the community assembly to be held as soon as possible, and no later than February 10.

Any recommendations from this assembly will have to be presented at a general assembly, scheduled for March. There, the general council will consider them.

The general council meets annually. It is made up of three representatives from each clan.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

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