Ross River picks new chief

Brian Ladue is the new chief of the Ross River Dena Council. Ladue, 35, has spent seven years working with Ross River elders to learn and record their traditional knowledge.

Brian Ladue is the new chief of the Ross River Dena Council.

Ladue, 35, has spent seven years working with Ross River elders to learn and record their traditional knowledge. He sees himself as a bridge between generations.

Shortly after being elected, he met with a respected elder in the community.

“I sat there and we had tea and he told me a bunch of stories and gave me a lot of wisdom and then he said, ‘You know, I’m really happy that you did run and that you did get elected because you know the old ways and you know the new ways.’”

Ladue grew up on a homestead outside of Ross River and learned a traditional way of life. He also has training in renewable resource management and geographic information systems.

Ladue earned 83 votes in last week’s election and unseated incumbent Jack Caesar, who came in second with 53 votes.

Already the response from the community has been overwhelming, said Ladue on Monday.

“It’s such a positive atmosphere here in this town right now. I looked into people’s eyes this morning and it was really nice to see a lot of smiling faces as I walked into the band office. There were a lot of people there to greet the new elected chief and council. It was really good to see.”

Community members cast a record 246 ballots for six chief candidates.

It has been great to see the youth in particular take an interest in the community, said Ladue.

“I’d like to say to the youth of the Yukon that their voice really matters and I’d like to see them voicing their opinions on all of these things that are going on because there are big decisions being made about their future that they should have a big say in.”

The Kaska leaders announced in November that they would consider a total ban on mineral exploration on their territory and a blockade of the North Canol Road.

They have asked the government to reconsider their proposal to remove the unsigned First Nations’ veto power over oil and gas development, and hope they will come to the table on other issues such as the Faro mine reclamation project.

Premier Darrell Pasloski agreed to a Dec. 7 meeting with Kaska leaders, and they, in turn, agreed to postpone any further action against the government.

Ladue will attend the meeting, but would not comment on his position at length because he is still “getting up to speed with all the details,” he said.

“We stand with the Kaska nation and that approach, and we’re there in full support,” said Ladue. “And we know that they would be in full support of us and anything that we’re working towards.”

For now, Ladue’s priority is to work with the elected council to bring the community together and make sure everyone’s voices are heard.

“As elected chief and council, we really should get our direction from community membership and the elders. So we want to get back to that and really build the community from the ground up, from the people to the leaders.”

The race for deputy chief and councillors was hotly contested, with 17 candidates.

Verna Nukon was elected deputy chief. James Dick, Yvonne Moon and Jenny Caesar will serve as councillors.

“I feel that we have a really strong council – really positive, forward-moving individuals who are really, really smart, really bright,” said Ladue. “And there’s such a great team atmosphere already.”

Ladue combines the old and the new in his passion for music, as well. He will travel to Whitehorse this month to play country songs at the Grand Ole Northern Opry show at the Yukon Arts Centre on Dec. 20 and 21. He also leads the Kaska Dene Drummers and has written songs in the Kaska language.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at