Tr’ondek Hwech’in Chief Roberta Joseph hopes TH citizens will give her a second mandate.
“Prior to the election, many months ago, many citizens had approached me to step forward again and put my name in,” she told the News.
Joseph was first elected chief back in October 2014. For 10 years before that she worked for the First Nation as a fish and wildlife coordinator and general manager.
Joseph highlighted her work on the housing front, with 40 lots added to the TH subdivision last year and the creation a five-year strategic plan. Ultimately that plan will lead to to a 10-year capital plan for housing projects, she said. Housing shortages have been a perennial problem in Dawson for years.
Joseph said the First Nation has also worked on developing its own Land Title Act.
“That would allow our citizens to go to the bank and get a mortgage and build their own homes,” she said. “At present we don’t have the ability to do that.”
The Kwanlin Dun First Nation is going through a similar process, working with the Yukon government to allow registering settlement land without losing aboriginal title.
Ultimately that will allow citizens to apply for mortgages, which before was only possible if First Nations agreed to give up aboriginal title and render it fee simple, like other privately owned land.
Joseph also talked about developing new policies so the First Nation could apply for federal housing funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
“Whenever there’s money allocated by the federal government, we, as a self-governing first nation, we don’t receive any funding from those categories,” she said.
The First Nation is also looking into building a conference hall to be used for traditional activities.
Implementing the TH final agreement has been a challenge, she said, mainly because of inadequate funding.
“Our natural resources department is mainly responding to the number of permits issued in TH traditional territory on mining,” she said.
That leaves them no time to work on other responsibilities, such as residential development plans for TH land outside Dawson city.
During her term she said she’s worked on the royalty resources sharing agreement. Last year the First Nation received a $69 cheque for royalties from placer mining.
Placer mining generated about $69 million throughout the Yukon in 2015 and about 85 per cent of that took place in TH traditional territory, Joseph said.
But because of how the royalties sharing agreements are structured, one First Nation can unintentionally prevent others from sharing the government’s resource revenue.
“We have to move beyond that (agreement) and start thinking about the Yukon government sharing royalty resources extracted out of the Yukon,” she said.
More discussions are needed, she said. She credits the recently elected Liberal government for its open attitude towards First Nation governments.
“We have a government in place willing to work with First Nations,” she said. “We feel that matter can be advanced.”
Her entire term has also been marked by the First Nation’s fight to protect the Peel Watershed, alongside the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun.
Joseph also cited her work to increase employment and education opportunities for TH citizens.
When she was first elected the First Nation started its teaching and working farm in partnership with Yukon College. Every year since, approximately 20 students learn how to farm, receiving 400 hours of classroom instruction and 600 hours of fieldwork. In summer 2016, students grew thousands of potatoes, carrots, beats and other vegetables.
“It brought out a lot of good things for the students,” she said. “It allowed our students to develop self confidence.”
The News reached out to the other candidate for chief, Eddie Taylor, but has yet to hear back.
There are six candidates vying for four seats on TH council: JT Taylor, Fred Taylor, Jay Farr, Darren Bullen, Babe Titus and Simon Nagano.
An all-candidates forum is scheduled for April 12 at the TH hall at 7 p.m. Advanced polling takes place on April 13 and election day is April 20. The TH returning officer can be reached at 867-689-5490.
With files from Ashley Joannou
Contact Pierre Chauvin at email@example.com