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Four vie to become Dehcho First Nations grand chief

Four vie to become DFN grand chief
Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 28, 2009

DEH CHO - For the first time in six years there's an election race underway for the position of grand chief with the Dehcho First Nations.

Four candidates, three from Fort Simpson and one from Fort Providence, are campaigning in the election.

The last race for grand chief was in June 2003 when Herb Norwegian was elected to the position after beating out four other candidates. Jerry Antoine, who is one of the current candidates, has held the position since February 2008, when Norwegian was removed from office during his second term, which he won by acclamation.

The winner of this election will be chosen by a vote by the delegates at the Dehcho First Nations' (DFN) annual assembly that will start in Jean Marie River on June 22.

Deh Cho Drum asked the candidates four questions and to provide a brief biography.

1. The Deh Cho is the only region that has held out against the Mackenzie Gas Project. What stance to you think DFN should take on the pipeline?

2. What do you think DFN's top priority should be right now?

3. What areas is it crucial for DFN to get power over through the Deh Cho Process?

4. At its spring meeting the DFN passed a resolution recommending the grand chief's term be extended from three to four years. Should this change be made?

Elizabeth Hardisty

Hardisty was born in and is currently a resident of Fort Simpson.

Hardisty was Liidlii Kue First Nation's first female band councillor and acted as sub-chief in the late 1970s.

Hardisty is currently a board member on the Fort Simpson Justice Committee and the District Education Authority in the village.

Slavey is Hardisty's first language and she has provided interpreting services to a variety of organizations.

1. "To explore all educational and economic means available through this MGP pipeline opportunity to benefit the youth and the membership at large.""

2. "The Land Use Plan has to be clarified with the governments based on the forefathers' words that 'they did not want to be fenced in' as a large land mass is required to survive off the land and water."

3. "DFN has to retain governing rights to the land and people built upon the oral understanding of the peace treaties made with the Crown."

4. "The general assembly and membership determine the length of the term."

Ria Letcher

Letcher was born in Fort Simpson and grew up in Wrigley. Letcher has a Management Studies diploma from Aurora College. She has held a variety of positions with DFN including executive assistant to the grand chief, local contaminants co-ordinator, assistant negotiator and most recently executive director.

Letcher also worked with Liidlii Kue First Nation in 2004 as the Denedeh resources co-ordinator. She is fluent in both written and spoken Slavey.

1. "The Dehcho position on the pipeline remains with the Dehcho membership. There are many factors that must be considered by the people in taking a position on the project."

2. "The priority right now should be the approval and implementation of the Dehcho Land Use Plan. Resolution of land matters should be the highest priority for DFN."

3. "The most crucial area for any nation to have power and authority over is lands and resources.... These are the resources that will be the means by which we will be able to sustain a Dehcho government and a nation of people."

4. "The decision to extend the terms remains with the members as this is an essential bylaw amendment that must be endorsed by the delegates to the annual assembly."

Samuel Gargan

Gargan was born in Redknife and lives in Fort Providence. He spent 16 years in office as the MLA for the Deh Cho and was house speaker for four of those years.

Gargan was also the mayor of Fort Providence for a term and served as the chief of the Deh Gah Got'ie Koe First Nation. Most recently Gargan has been the assistant negotiator on the Dehcho Process. Gargan is fluent in Slavey and likes to get out on the land when he has the time.

1 "...We expect the Joint Review Panel report and recommendation in December, therefore, DFN should wait till the report comes out before deciding and ensure the 2003 Wrigley special assembly resolution with the five conditions have been met."

2. "Our youth. The future of tomorrow belongs to them and we must prepare them for it. We should be planning, discussing and teaching them our ways while encouraging them to be doctors and lawyers and such..."

3. "As one of three orders of government DFN is already exercising its jurisdictional power as directed by the assembly and leadership. It's just a matter of applying those powers to address and improve our governance structure, economic development and manpower."

4. "This is best left to the leadership and assembly to determine."

Jerry Antoine

Antoine was born in the Rabbitskin area and lives in Fort Simpson.

Antoine said his involvement in "community development" started at the Dene Nation's assembly in 1977 when he was chosen as the spokesperson for the Deh Cho. Since then he has been the manager of the Jean Marie River First Nation, Chief of the Liidlii Kue First Nation, mayor of Fort Simpson and a radio announcer with CKLB.

Antoine, who is fluent in Slavey, served a three year term as DFN grand chief from 1993-1996 and again from February 2008 to the present.

1. "The current negotiations for access and benefits have now stalled so it doesn't look good at all. DFN needs to ensure that all components line up and that it will meet the needs and aspirations outlined in its overall economic vision."

2. "DFN's top priority is to make the process about us, for us and by us."

3. "First of all, implementation of the treaty is a crucial area as the objective of negotiations is to clarify and build upon the existing treaties... Secondly, enhancing community governance is another crucial area..."

4. "This is one item that will be dealt with at this upcoming assembly... I agree with it."


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