The Ta’an Kwach’an Council is taking its second kick at the democracy can.
And the usual suspects are running again.
The longstanding feud between acting chief Ruth Massie and Bonnie Harpe, who lost by two votes to Massie in 2004, will be settled Monday — provided all the election rules are followed.
In 2004, the First Nation’s first election for chief — three years after it signed a land claim settlement with Ottawa — hit a snag when it was revealed that chief candidate Sam Broeren, who placed third, had a criminal charge dating back about four decades that rendered him ineligible to run.
Harpe, who pulled 58 votes to Massie’s 60, filed several complaints with the Ta’an judicial council, saying that the split of Broeren’s 48 votes could have landed her in the chief’s office.
The judicial council agreed, and named Massie acting chief until a new election could be held.
Harpe challenged that decision in Yukon Supreme Court in 2005, but Justice Ron Veale upheld Massie’s legitimacy.
Arguments have raged between the two Ta’an factions about who is “traditional” enough to wield leadership.
Harpe is a granddaughter in the Teslin-area Geddes family, which claims lineage with the traditional Susie Jim family from the heart of Ta’an territory near Lake Laberge.
Massie is a granddaughter of Jenny and Billy LeBarge, and still lives at the lake that bears her family name, according to a letter she sent to Ta’an citizens.
That letter also says Harpe first joined the First Nation in 2001, after ratification of its land claim.
The Ta’an’s last attempt at a general assembly broke down in 2005, due to differences between the two camps.
In recent weeks the dispute has carried over into the mailboxes of the 432 First Nation members, who received letters from both candidates.
“During Ms. Massie’s reign as acting chief of our First Nation there has been much turmoil and much hardship for our people,” reads one letter from Harpe.
“The First Nation is plagued by nepotism, favouritism, lack of programs and services, lack of housing, lack of elders care, lack of education dollars and lack of communication with people.
“We have not had a successful general assembly since 2003.
“There has been no financial accountability by the current leadership.
“If you vote for me in the upcoming election… I promise that I will put an end to the ‘dictatorship’ that we find ourselves under.”
Some Ta’an citizens received Harpe’s one-page letter.
Others received an eight-page version, which incensed Massie because it was “not endorsed by the Ta’an elections committee.”
“I cannot ignore this behaviour any longer,” Massie wrote in response to Harpe’s “demoralizing and destructive criticism” that has “caused a lot of pain and suffering in our community.”
“I feel a responsibility to our citizens who strive to lead productive, peaceful lives,” wrote Massie.
“It has become increasingly difficult for them to endure Ms. Harpe’s campaign of bully tactics, as this is not consistent with our culture and traditions, where conflict is resolved in a respectful manner.”
Massie listed her work with various boards and councils in her letter to citizens, and asked for their support.
Both candidates urged Ta’an members to vote.
Partisan politics aside, the Ta’an have been in conflict in recent months with local farmers and the Yukon government over appropriate use of its traditional territory surrounding Lake Laberge.
Their land claim implementation continues, and a funding deal with Ottawa and the Yukon government for affordable housing has yet to be finalized.
Three candidates are also running for deputy chief in the November 20 election: Barb Hare, Diane Graham, Gail Anderson.
Ta’an members can vote at the Yukon Inn from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday.