The results are in from the Ross River Dena Council’s election of chief and council.
The election was close, with election officials counting and recounting the 255 votes cast up until midnight on March 14. Four votes were excluded during the counting process.
Dylan Loblaw, with 64 votes, narrowly defeated Teddy Charlie, with 60 votes. Loblaw sat on the previous council. Incumbent Jack Caesar had 48 votes, and Marie Eshleman, Gordon Dick and Clifford McLeod had 37, 32 and 10 votes respectively.
Former councillor Verna Nukon received the most votes amongst the councillor candidates and becomes deputy chief. The other successful candidates for council are Roberta Dick, Dorothy Smith and Jimmy Smith.
Loblaw campaigned on addressing the housing crisis, the importance of cultural revitalization and language, balancing mining and remediation, and healing mental health concerns for the community.
Citing the common Ross River Dena phrase, “If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you,” Loblaw told the News that stewardship is a priority.
“I’d like to see a balance of remediation and mining. Mining is an essential service for the global market, and we’ve been impacted pretty hard,” Loblaw said on March 16. “We’re surrounded by it.”
He recognizes that “remediation efforts are underway and that there is still interest in future mining that will affect watersheds, ecosystems, the biodiversity that thrives on it.”
Loblaw is committed to letting the interests and concerns of the membership drive the positions of chief and council. He admits that mining issues are contentious.
Loblaw and his four councillors will be officially sworn in by April 1.
Loblaw expects to get started right away. Ross River has quite a few fluent speakers of the Kaska langage that will be helping out with engagement and finding a good way forward to revitalize the culture of the Ross River Dena.
Caring for the land and revitalizing the culture are part of restoring the mental health of the community.
“We have alcohol and drug issues that need to be handled properly with better aftercare programming more awareness,” he said.
Loblaw is a self-admitted millennial, but even on the community’s dog issue, Loblaw leans back into the old ways.
“Back in the day, the dogs were used for packing, for helping. They had great purpose. And now we should be working together to love these animals and bring that purpose back,” he said. “They need proper care. If anybody wants to surrender any of their pets — now’s a good time. Or even, to tie them up.”
Loblaw knows that there is big effort needed ahead, with a small administration and big issues facing the community. He draws comfort from the support he received during the election.
“A lot of our members saw something great in me and I’d like to thank them. My hat goes off to the membership and I couldn’t have done it without them,” Loblaw said.
“[The whole community] needs to overcome barriers and come together, unite and strengthen each other …. This is a journey that we’re in together.”
Contact Lawrie Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org