Peace for Christmas in Carmacks

Carmacks' warring factions are calling a truce. For now. With a beloved citizen critically ill (her name is being withheld to respect her privacy), both sides have stopped fighting.

Carmacks’ warring factions are calling a truce. For now.

With a beloved citizen critically ill (her name is being withheld to respect her privacy), both sides have stopped fighting. But they haven’t started talking.

At the beginning of the week, tensions were rising as the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation government announced a byelection for Crow council and deputy chief.

The vote was called to fill the seat vacated by Joseph O’Brien, who resigned to protest the continued leadership of Chief Eddie Skookum.

“We waited four months for him to seek treatment that was court ordered,” he said. “My seat’s not even cold yet and they’re trying to fill it,” said O’Brien.

Lorraine O’Brien brought things to a head for their side as well.

She and Joseph hand-delivered an appeal to the First Nation, its elder council and media.

They are challenging decisions made at the November 6 special general assembly by the elder’s council that protected Skookum’s term as chief.

The seven-page appeal dissects multiple sections of the First Nation’s constitution, outlining how the assembly was unlawful.

This includes a lack of notification or reasoning for the meeting, a lack of evidence given to the assembly to allow respectful engagement and a lack of opportunity to strive for consensus.

Most notably, the appeal says the meeting should have allowed a vote on whether the chief was fit to hold office, not whether the elders should decide if a full election may occur. And, finally, it says citizens were not given the opportunity to provide input to the assembly.

“The lawyer that provided advice and help with the appeal says we have a case,” O’Brien said.

The Fundamental Principles of the First Nation’s constitution says, “We believe in the primary importance of healing, sobriety and harmony within our First Nation …”

Under the Chief section, it states that they must promote these principles.

As well, a chief “must be of sober mind and free from drug and alcohol abuse for not less than three consecutive years immediately prior to taking office, or actively seeking treatment for substance abuse.”

These three points are integral to the O’Brien’s appeal and petition. The petition has more than 40 signatures, she said.

“The incidents documented by the Las Vegas and Haines police clearly indicate that Chief Skookum was extremely intoxicated,” reads the appeal, mentioning his arrest this summer in Alaska when police had to break into his truck to apprehend him after they found his 21-year-old partner beaten at their motel room.

According to the appeal, the Las Vegas incident in the spring includes security camera footage of the two, intoxicated and engaged in a domestic dispute. It ended with Skookum’s girlfriend, Julie Smith, arrested for assault.

The Las Vegas scuffle offered Skookum a defence from O’Brien’s cousin, Dacia Tulk.

“I would like to ask Lorraine this question,” said Tulk in a letter submitted to the paper. “If she was being beaten by her partner and her partner had a pattern of abuse … would she not do what she could to get away from the abuse? Would she not do what Chief Skookum did to get away from the abusive behaviour?”

Tulk also counters the appeal by noting a section of the constitution the O’Briens cite in their argument.

Under the heading Leaving Office in the constitution it states, “Chief – if no longer fit to hold office and upon recommendation of the council, or a petition by 40 citizens, the assembly may remove the chief from office, subject to the agreement of the elders council.”

O’Brien says her petition has enough votes to enact this.

Tulk says the elders made their decision and, as per this section, the chief cannot be removed without their agreement.

Elder Johnnie Sam, who is largely recognized as a leader among the elders council, refused comment on the appeal.

The O’Briens handed it to him, specifically, they said.

No date for the byelection has been announced.

The notification of the delay states, “the need to come together and leave all other issues behind,” especially at this time which “will not feel like Christmas for most of us.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at