Squabbles may lead to First Nation split, warns family head

Years of infighting may ultimately lead to a break-up of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council, according to one traditional family head. 

Years of infighting may ultimately lead to a break-up of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council, according to one traditional family head.

Bonnie Harpe, head of the Susie Jim family, said the damage done over the past decade is irreversible.

“That’s the whole reason we’re not successful as a government, because we can’t get along,” she said.

“Some of the families are with you on certain things, then against you on others. We’re being labeled as difficult to deal with because we’re open, honest and vocal about issues and they don’t like it.”

Fighting between the First Nation’s six traditional families boiled over during a five-day special general assembly held at the end of October.

On the second day, families couldn’t agree on an agenda and the assembly was adjourned by consensus.

The other traditional families are the Jenny Dawson family, the Chief Jim Boss family, the Jenny Lebarge family and the Maggie Broeren family.

The Undeahel family is the only one that does not actively participate, according to Chief Kristine Kane.

Harpe said she’s had discussions with members of the Maggie Broeren family to consider other options, such as leaving the First Nation altogether.

“We want to distance ourselves but we don’t know how, yet,” she said.

“We want to look at the possibility of forming our own band because we know we’re never going to get anywhere otherwise. We’ve tried.”

The last successful general assembly – where legislation was passed – took place in 2001, Harpe said, during the time she was chief.

She said there is too much secrecy within the First Nation and trust between some of the families has completely eroded.

Harpe, who now lives in Edmonton, said the First Nation never contacted her about the latest general assembly.

She said she called the band office to find out which address they had on file, but they wouldn’t tell her.

She’s also concerned about the lack of information on the First Nation’s website.

Last week, Chief Kane told the News the First Nation is mandated to contact every family at least 30 days before a general assembly.

She said notices were placed in newspapers, local radio stations, the TKC website and through the mail.

Kane said her role as chief of the First Nation is to maintain neutrality and respect everyone’s opinion, but she isn’t at liberty to speak about the infighting between families.

Harpe said her daughter, who lives in Whitehorse, didn’t even get notice.

Enough is enough, she said.

“We’re just in the beginning stages but we’re drafting a letter and trying to make a list of all the members who want out of the First Nation,” she said.

“We’re trying to participate so we don’t have to go to this extreme. They call all these general assemblies and nothing ever gets done.

“We are trying to fight for the future of our children. We don’t want to fight but at this point we don’t have a choice.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at myles@yukon-news.com