Math’ieya Alatini is returning as chief of Kluane First Nation.
Alatini was voted in for her second term as chief of the Burwash Landing-based First Nation on Aug. 9. She captured 55 votes. Alyce Johnson came in second with 37 and 10 were cast for Shannon Walker.
Grace Southwick and Monique Martin claimed the two councillor-at-large seats with 52 and 46 votes, respectively. Youth councillor Jared Dulac and elder councillor Sharon Cabanak were both acclaimed. In total, 111 of the 180 citizens on the voters’ list cast ballots, said Robin Bradasch with the elections committee.
Several important capital projects were started during her first term, Alatini said. Some citizens were concerned if she wasn’t elected, these projects wouldn’t be completed, she said in an interview Tuesday.
These include completing a four-plex unit in the community. Construction should finish this year, said Alatini. She also hopes the First Nation will also build other multi-residential units, she said. But she and the council will have to consult with the community to see what kind of housing people want and need before any designs or plans are made, she said.
Work will continue on the First Nation’s alternative energy initiatives. The First Nation also has plans for a geothermal project that could let it heat homes and a community greenhouse.
Both the geothermal project and the greenhouse projects are still in the pre-feasibilty stages, said Alatini. But she would like to see work on the projects begin in this council’s term, she said.
The First Nation also has plans to install a 250-kilowatt wind farm. It could cut down the community’s diesel consumption by about 160,000 litres a year. Construction on this project should begin next year and take about 14 months, said Alatini.
“Hopefully, I get to cut the ribbon,” she said, laughing.
Alatini also wants to continue helping citizens live out their culture, she said. This means making sure work continues on the language nest, where elders teach children Southern Tutchone. She’d also like to work with the new council to develop programs for parents with young children or immersion camps. Some cultural initiatives have already begun. A group has already met to learn traditional dances, said Alatini.
But these are all the easy projects, said Alatini. Helping residents in the community continue to find healing from the effects of residential schools is much more difficult.
“All that stuff, it’s easy,” she said, referring to the work needed to do capital projects. “Everybody can do it. But dealing with individual healing, that is the biggest challenge that is faced, I think, by every community. We are not alone in this.”
The council will continue to work with the youth and elders councils to find ways to address problems like substance abuse, she said. And administration has brought in a professional to help some individuals who struggle with addictions and violence, said Alatini.
Burwash Landing is a clean, well-kept place, and most of the residents are well off. Violence isn’t normal in the community, and people are shocked when it happens, she said. But people hurt each other with their words. Elections can be especially divisive because the candidates are often related to each other, said Alatini.
Some chief candidates have concerns about how this year’s election was run. Most of the votes for Alatini came from citizens who live outside of Burwash Landing, runner-up Alyce Johnson said after this year’s elections. Johnson also was concerned that copies of the News delivered to the post office in Burwash Landing had been removed.
Papers in the community are free. One of these papers included an article profiling Johnson’s campaign. Another ran a letter by former chief Wilfred Sheldon listing his concerns with the current administration.
Alatini knew the newspapers were not in the post office, she said. But she didn’t ask anyone to take them, she said. She thought they weren’t there because people were reading them, she said.
Johnson wants a referendum asking if Kluane First Nation citizens who live in the United States should be allowed to vote in the First Nation’s elections, she told the News on Monday.
“We would be doing ourselves a disservice by creating a second class of citizens based on where they reside,” Alatini said in response.
“The people who voted me in are citizens of our nation. And if they believe I’ve done a good job, and it’s over 50 per cent that voted for me, I’ll take that,” she said.
Electoral reform was one of the main topics at the First Nation’s recent annual general assembly, she said. Some of these reforms include, potentially, an online voting system, said Alatini. Right now, any member of the First Nation who doesn’t live in Burwash Landing can mail in their votes. Other reforms may include putting in two polling stations, one in Burwash Landing and the other in Whitehorse.
The First Nation does not record where ballots are mailed in from, said Bradasch. But she’s confident the majority came from Canada, not the United States, she said on Tuesday afternoon.
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