Monday, November 2, 2009

Chief and Council: the best gig for some unskilled people.

Chief Big Bear. A real leader sits in chains holding his pipe. He was put in Stoney Mountain prison. This is iconic image of what Leaders of Native people should be striving for. Willing to put your people ahead of your own wants.

I ran for a Council position in our Reserve this past year. I might have broke a hundred votes. There were something like 35 people running for a Council member seat. I was beaten by many many of the people running. People with no education, a young man of 18 that has not completed high school and a host of others. I was kind of hurt. I guess I took it as a complete rejection of me and what I stand for. I did put out some ideas of what I was thinking about if I was to be in Council. It is a very humbling experience to be slaughtered at the polls.

(In my defense) I did participate in a scandal on the Reserve and therefore can be judged as not having a great character. Let's just say that is a very long story that I will re-live at a later date. So many people think of me as a bad guy. Which is fair. Still I have enough confidence in my own behaviour and character that I can go and put my name out in public, whether or not the community may think differently of me. So I can either take my defeat as a sign that my reputation is shot because of the scandal or it is a personal rejection of who I am. Still both not appealing things.

I do not begrudge the people who got into office. I imagine the people of the community see some real benefit to the community of them being our elected leaders of Sagkeeng First Nation (aka Fort Alexander Indian Reserve). It is my hope (not belief) that all people run for office to enact a good change for the community. Our community sure could use some healthy alternatives to the way it governs itself.

I can't blame the Chief and Council for all our woes. There is a mindset that has developed over the years that can not be moved. It is like an ant trying to move a car, unlikely. At the community we have become dependent on the Chief and Council for almost everything. We ask them for money, for door-knobs, for gas, for electricity payments, for our work shoes. It is a sad situation. Many people do not have this mindset but it seems to be addictive. "If so and so is getting this why can't I?"

It is a hard thing for our leaders to deal with a culture of entitlement. It is easier for them to give in. It is because they don't have the tools to deal with organizational (community) behaviour. They don't know how to go about effecting change. Changing a mindset and attitude that has been re-enforced for many years is an impossible feat. The only way it is going to get better is if the Chief and Council understand what the problems are. I am not just talking about the social ills or the financial crisis in the community, I am talking about the mindset. How we think of the community, the roles each of us as community members have and what we see the Chief and Council's duties are. Right now we think of Chief and Council as the people who solve our problems. They solve problems by using the resources at their disposal. It's not fair to them and not fair to the community as a whole.

We must remember that the resources of the community are part of everyone's, including the future. If we think in those terms maybe our decisions will be long term and not for individual short term gain.

I think that many Chief and Council members are over their heads. These roles may be the best gigs they have ever gotten in their lives. What I do find amusing and maddening at the same time is how the Chief likes the title. "I'm Chief _____". That title is more than a title, it is a position of leadership and people who are previleged enough to receive that honour should conduct themselves in that manner; as a leader and not a glad-handler-showman. (Oops letting my begrudging to take over here :-0 )


  1. I wandered into your blog by way of another, (Wretha's). As it happened, I was looking for a coupon for Harbor Freight. You write well. Something in your blog made me remember growing up in Illinois,(yeah,those people down there). As a young boy, there was still original prarie across Rt.20. I wacthed it become I-290. I can measure the years by the passing of the land. I'll be happy to visit again. Marv Sigler

  2. Thanks Marv, Hope to see you come by again. Yeah at my Mom and Dad's place we see the banks eroding. The shore line coming closer to the homes and the river widening. Sometimes it looks like it was always like that. But when we remember as kids we know it is different.