The Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation is giving Chief Eddie Skookum a chance to redeem himself after being charged with assault in the United States two weeks ago.
“I hope he does the right thing and follows his conscience and thinks about his people at home,” said Darlene Johnson, a councillor with the First Nation who took Skookum’s place at the annual assembly of the Council of Yukon First Nations this week.
Johnson wouldn’t go as far as calling for Skookum to resign.
“I’m not saying that right now because it’s not just me, it’s my people who I have to speak to, who have to process this,” she said. “A lot of them are very hurt.”
Skookum was arrested on July 4 in Haines, Alaska, after police found a woman who had been badly beaten in a motel room.
The victim was Skookum’s girlfriend, said Johnson. The two were living together and she is from Haines Junction, she said.
“We do feel bad about that,” she said. “It happened to a member in another community.”
Witnesses at the crime scene have described blood on the carpets, walls and bed sheets of the room. The door also looked as if it had been pried open.
“Throughout the years we promoted healing in our community,” said Johnson. “In society, violence is not accepted anymore. And now our chief is on the other side of the border. It’s another country and it’s their laws.”
“So it’s really difficult for us now to know what to do.”
The First Nation held a meeting with the community last Friday.
“It was more of an information session for our citizens to let them know about what was happening with the chief,” said Johnson.
“And for them to air their concerns and how they feel.
“It was really emotional because people supported Eddy for that many years and then were confronted with this.”
Johnson was put in charge of the day-to-day operations of the First Nation while the community figures out what to do next.
With the Council of Yukon First Nation’s assembly this week, Skookum’s situation will be discussed in full next week.
“We are probably going to deal with it when we get back, phone his lawyer and see what’s happening,” she said.
Skookum doesn’t have phone privileges yet and has been speaking through his lawyer, she said.
“We haven’t heard from the chief directly,” she said.
Last week, the lawyer tried to lower Skookum’s bail from $50,000 to $2,000 by arguing that Skookum was the leader of a sovereign nation. The judge refused.
Some community members are trying to raise funds for Skookum, said Johnson.
He has since been moved to a Juneau penitentiary from Haines.
“When you come in as leader, you can’t be doing negative things,” she said. “I knew when I got into council that I had to walk the straight and narrow.”
The First Nation is giving Skookum a couple of weeks to make a choice.
“It’s not only his choice, but we’re giving him that benefit for him to do the right thing,” said Johnson. “We can only wait a week or two and then council has the option to decide.”
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