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Vuntut Gwitchin set to elect new chief

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation will be heading to the polls on Monday to elect its chief and council for the next four-year term.

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation will be heading to the polls on Monday to elect its chief and council for the next four-year term.

Three candidates are running for the position of chief while five are vying for four councillor spots.

Joe Linklater announced he is not seeking a sixth term as chief, saying he’s had enough of the position.

“It’s just been too long, really,” he said.

“I’ve been chief for about 16 years now so I just decided that it was enough. I still hope to remain involved in the First Nation in some capacity, though.”

Linklater was first elected to the position in 1998.

He was chief for 12 years before resigning in late 2010.

Norma Kassi took over briefly as chief but resigned after just one year.

Linklater was acclaimed to the position in February 2012, following a byelection.

He’s the second longest-serving chief in the First Nation’s history, after Peter Moses, who served for 18 years between 1936 and 1954.

Roger Kyikavichik is one of the candidates running for chief.

It’s a position he knows well, having led the First Nation between 1988 and 1992.

He was also a councillor between 1986 and 1988 and again from 1998 until 2010.

“Leadership skills never leave you,” he said.

Kyikavichik said he decided to put his name forward for the top spot when he found out Linklater wasn’t running for re-election. He wants to help citizens of the First Nation take advantage of the land they own, he said.

“We need to utilize it in terms of helping ourselves,” he said.

“Especially when it comes to getting to know our culture and traditions. The best place to do that is on our lands.

“We need to take the young people out and teach them all about it.”

Substance abuse has long been an issue for the First Nation, and chief and council have been trying to tackle it since 1990, said Kyikavichik.

“There have been some improvements but if we don’t talk about it, the problems get bigger,” he said.

“It has an impact on everybody in the community. That’s something that’ll be discussed at the community level.

“We’re also looking at developing a land-based treatment program, but as always it comes down to the cost.”

Esau Schafer is also running for chief.

The 62-year-old is also no stranger to politics. He was elected to represent the riding of Vuntut Gwitchin at the legislative assembly in 1996 following the death of Johnny Abel.

Schafer was also a councillor for the First Nation between 2003 and 2010.

It wasn’t his idea to run for chief, though - other citizens nominated him and he felt he didn’t want to let them down, he said.

One of his top priorities would be to focus on education, said Schafer.

“We do have a college in the community and we need to encourage youth to further their education. I’d also like to see more training, especially mentoring, because when you have someone beside you it’s easier to understand what’s going on.

“All my life I’ve been mentored by people - carpenters, foremen, contractors and especially elders - and it’s helped me a lot.”

In terms of social issues, people can become healthier by spending more time on the land, he said.

“If we reunite together, we get to know each other again,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to working for the community of Old Crow.”

The News was unable to reach the third candidate for chief, Gladys Netro, for comment.

Bonnee Bingham, Paul Josie, Stanley Njootli Sr., Marla Charlie and Peter Frost are seeking councillor spots.

Both Bingham and Josie are seeking re-election.

Two voting places will be available on Monday: one in Old Crow’s community centre, and one in Whitehorse, at the Yukon Inn Willow Room.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Contact Myles Dolphin at