Nacho Nyak Dun chief under fire

A group of Nacho Nyak Dun citizens and employees are trying to oust chief and council. Over 70 names fill a petition claiming Chief Simon Mervyn's government is "unfit for office.

MAYO

A group of Nacho Nyak Dun citizens and employees are trying to oust chief and council.

Over 70 names fill a petition claiming Chief Simon Mervyn’s government is “unfit for office.” It calls for an election within the next 60 days.

Many people within Nacho Nyak Dun believe chief and council are acting irresponsibly, said Ed Champion, a member of the newly formed Oversight Committee responsible for the petition and a Nacho Nyak Dun employee.

“It’s a strong, valid petition,” he said.

The petition was ruled out of order at Nacho Nyak Dun’s annual general meeting last month.

But this hasn’t stopped protestors.

On Tuesday, 15 elders and Nacho Nyak Dun employees sat outside the First Nation office calling for the chief and council’s resignation.

Employees coming to work entered through side doors. And it was announced over the intercom that anyone who chose to participate in the protest would have to clock out first.

“When you’re trying to carry out what’s in your constitution and nobody listens, what do you do?” said Champion.

The Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation faces serious drug and alcohol issues, said Teresa Samson, also on the Oversight Committee and a Nacho Nyak Dun employee.

“They are forgotten people,” she said. Chief and council “don’t care if they die in the ditch on the weekend.”

Unpaved roads and people running out of heat in the winter are also issues, said Samson.

In addition, qualified people working for the First Nation aren’t being utilized to their full potential, she said.

“We have successful NND people in this building not given the opportunity to move up,” she said.

The issues range “all the way from poor delivery of programs for the elders to housing, wellness issues and staffing issues, as well as the way some of the mining files are handled and some of the deals that are going on,” added Samson, who was asked to return her key to the building during the protest.

Standing outside, some elders were holding signs calling for justice and asking for their voices back.

“Chief and Council do not want wellness,” said Frank Patterson. “Why?”

Chief Mervyn entered the building through a side entrance to avoid the protesters on Tuesday.

It’s a “high form of harassment,” he said.

“And we are going to treat it accordingly.”

Mervyn said the next step was for the protesters to prove their allegations in court.

“That’s part of the process that we will acknowledge,” he said.

The Oversight Committee is doing everything it can to approach things from a legal standpoint and follow the Nacho Nyak Dun constitution, said Champion.

Chief and council also argue they are exercising their rights and responsibilities under the constitution as the governing body.

People have different interpretations of the constitution, which is why it is important to have elders involved, said Champion.

“The true meaning of the constitution is with the elders and not with lawyers. The Assembly is right. The elders are right,” he said.

Consultation with Nacho Nyak Dun citizens is vital, said Mervyn, adding that he takes wellness seriously.

“There are no secrets within this government,” he said.

“All of the information is out there.

“Our finance people are totally frustrated with how to be more communicative.”

The Oversight Committee is telling people a lot of lies, he said.

Mervyn is concerned that young people are witnessing this protest.

“There are huge values for youth,” he said, citing scholarships for youth available from mining companies.

When asked about his involvement with mining companies, Mervyn said NND is currently in negotiations with about half a dozen of them.

“We’re stepping into the corporate world, we have to be careful,” he said.

The issues Nacho Nyak Dun is dealing with are something that other First Nations should watch, said Champion.

“This is bigger than the Nacho Nyak Dun,” he said.

Contact Samantha Anderson at

samantha.anderson@ryerson.ca.

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