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Friction among families interrupts First Nation's assembly

The Ta'an Kwach'an Council had to cut short a special assembly short after disagreements among delegates proved too challenging to resolve.

The Ta’an Kwach’an Council had to cut short a special assembly short after disagreements among delegates proved too challenging to resolve.

In the end, the only motion they agreed on was the one to adjourn the assembly altogether. It passed by consensus.

In August, the First Nation held a general assembly at Helen’s Fish Camp in which its delegates called for a special general assembly to be held from Oct. 23 to 27.

The reason behind the assembly was for the purpose of reviewing and considering amendments to the First Nation’s constitution.

Last week’s assembly kicked off on schedule and things were going relatively smoothly for the fist 48 hours, according to Chief Kristina Kane.

Then, talks broke down.

“We started on Thursday and there were lengthy discussions about the agenda and rules of procedure, which took up most of that day,” she said.

“We agreed to adjourn so we came back on Friday morning. That day, we passed the agenda as well as the rules of procedure.

“Just following that, there was no agreement on how to move forward. There was a motion put forward by one of the delegates, due to frustration over the lack of progress, to adjourn until a later date.”

According to a source, the impasse was created when members of the Maggie Broeren family stood firm on wanting to discuss the recent security scare at the First Nation.

In late September, the Ta’an Kwach’an Council’s office was temporarily closed following a threat to its staff.

Increased security at the office has been a contentious issue.

The deadlock at the assembly endured and the meeting was adjourned.

As a result, the various amendments were left on the backburner.

The News obtained a copy of the submitted proposals for amendments to the constitution, which were meant to be brought to the floor and discussed.

One draft amendment called for the complete removal of the deputy chief position, claiming the First Nation’s constitution provides no specific duties for the position other than taking over for the chief’s responsibilities in their absence.

Another change, proposed by Joe Jack of the Chief Jim Boss family, calls for the replacement of the deputy chief with a hereditary chief.

Descendants of the Chief Jim Boss family would choose that hereditary chief, who would have the responsibilities to act as a spokesperson for the Ta’an Kwach’an Council and represent the First Nation in the context of inter-governmental affairs.

Tiffany Eckert-Maret of the Maggie Broeden family suggested making an amendment that would ensure a judge in the judicial council does not have a criminal record.

Gail Anderson, from the Jenny Dawson family, suggested increasing the chief’s term to four years from the current three years.

The Susie Jim family, Undeahel family and Jenny Lebarge family make up the other three traditional families of the First Nation.

The Undeahel family is the only one that doesn’t “actively participate,” Kane said.

Bonnie Harpe, head of the Susie Jim family, now lives in Edmonton and said she wasn’t surprised to learn the general assembly was adjourned early due to conflict and infighting.

She says her family wasn’t even invited to the meeting in the first place.

“I am surprised and appalled that my family were not notified or given the opportunity to participate,” she said in a letter.

“I was notified on the opening day of the GA, by a member, and asked why my five delegates and I were not in attendance. We were shocked to hear this.

“I don’t think the fighting between families will ever end. We’ll never see a resolution and there hasn’t been one since the last successful general assembly held in 2001.”

In a news release on Wednesday, the First Nation said it had gone to great lengths to ensure that every TKC citizen was made aware of the assembly at least 30 days before it was held.

Notices were placed in newspapers, local radio stations, the TKC website and through the mail, the release stated.

Kane said she isn’t at liberty to speak about the infighting between traditional families.

“As chief I try to maintain a certain level of neutrality,” she said.

“I respect everyone’s opinion and we were all at the general assembly in good faith, with an interest to take direction from the general assembly because that’s our ultimate authority.

“I was at the assembly with an intention to listen to everyone’s views and I was open to new ideas but we didn’t get an opportunity to discuss any of the amendments.”

The federal department formerly called Indian Affairs created the Whitehorse Indian Band in 1956 without consultation with any of the First Nations living in the Whitehorse area at the time. It was later renamed the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, and traditional groups from the Lake Laberge area requested their own separate government.

The separation between Kwanlin Dun and Ta’an Kwach’an took place in 1998.

Contact Myles Dolphin at