Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On the campaign trail in Sagkeeng Anishinabe Nation

Well the election for our Chief and Council takes place this coming April 4th. There are a number of people that have put their names in for the five positions available. I have my name in for chief. It is kind of fun being part of the process. No one is ever sure in this type of process but all you can do is go out, meet greet and try to get your message out there to people. In the Reserve it is not always about platform, skills or ideas, it might come down to friends and family. This is not always the case. I know that Derrick Henderson, Lyle Morrisseau were elected in the last election based on the amount of work they put into their campaign. Part of Derrick's success was in the platform he put out; a platform of "transparency, information sharing and proper policies are implemented."  Lyle was elected not as much for his platform but for his pure enthusiasm. He has a naivety of the workings of Band governance. He wanted to effect change. Lyle is an activist by nature. He is very concerned for the community and the environment. Being in Council I think he may now realize that you can not grant everyone what they desire. One council member is elected to sheer numbers of friends and family and the other for his work in the community. Our Chief has been in the Council for sometime in the past and people recognize him. He has been strong in implementing his own vision of activities and practices. I would disagree with some practices, but that is only my opinion.
I ask myself why I have chosen to put my name in the election race. I think I like to think our community needs change. Change in a way we approach each other. There has been a cultural shift from communal to individual value system in the community and I don't think that is healthy. It is not the fault of any Council. It is collectively a change in how we are participating in society. In any case I am hoping that by sharing everything at the Council level with people, it may bring out a more cohesive community. Cohesive in how we approach the limited funds that exist in the community. Cohesive in how we treat our local establishments, public and private. Ahh, heck, I'm getting all preachy and philosophical when all I wanted to do was take you on a trip with me down the campaign trail. So let's get on with it...

After the nomination meeting in the Reserve, I went home. I was afraid to tell my wife about the election thing. She is afraid that maybe just maybe some people might not be so nice to me on the campaign. So I didn't tell her right away. I decided that I would try and use the internet as one medium for getting my name out there. I think name recognition is a big part of the election game. So I put out postings on several facebook pages that are linked to Sagkeeng.  I give my phone number and open ended invitations to people. No responses. That is kind of an indicator that my word is not getting out there. So I am taking a more direct approach, by messaging people and going to see them directly.

I started visiting with close friends. Had a lot of tea to drink with Perry and with Smiley. I was going to crash over at Perry's but was out visiting too late and went to Smiley's. Some good friendly visiting to start off things with.  

I went for  a drink (club soda) with Lyle Morrisseau. Lyle is a current Council member. I like him, he has energy and is very friendly to everyone. We also ran into my cousin Andrew Richard Bruyere. Richard is an Anglican priest in the Reserve and is running for Council. He too has been a Councilor before. I am hoping to maybe go on some visiting trips with Lyle. I also called Ryan Bruyere just to visit a bit and talk to him. He is a young man and is currently in University. He might have graduated but I am not sure. He is very friendly and idealistic and wants to have input in the community as well.

On my visiting trips I am encountering a host of concerns, hopes and worries from people. Some people are not happy because they have not been helped by the Band. Some people are very angry and say that we are becoming like a "Whiteman's place". Others are worried that there will be no Reserve left for our kids. Others a living in a pain-filled existence. I am in awe and have opened eyes to how tough it is in the community. Sometimes we are isolated from the despair out there in our Reserve. Some very poor people. There are a lot of happy people as well. Happy with their lives. Happy with what they have worked for and how they are proud of their families. There is laughter when I visit. You know that Indian jokes and laughing at each other. Making fun of me and making fun of others. It is that type of visit that I like. There are some very serious conversations as well. People are concerned about the Land. Lot of talk about the Land, the closed down paper pulp mill in the town. The Reserve line and how the young generation does not know about the Reserve history. I went to one home where the fellow (and I know him to converse with in a friendly way) yelled at me from his window not to come there. He said he is not voting and that we all make false promises. I made a little attempt to talk but to no avail. So I said okay, that's okay, and he shut his window. I can't say that didn't affect me. I was kind of hurt by that, but I made it my effort to understand how frustrated he is. So I guess it wasn't personal.

I also called a couple of the candidates and met with them. It is good. This older gentleman, who is the same age as my Dad, said that when it was in their time, there were no hard feelings and no being hard to each other. This fellow named Jimmy didn't like the hard things that people say about each other. I have known him to always be a good guy, joking and taking part in a lot of activities in the Reserve. He is older now and is not healthy enough to continue working but he sure can still tease.  Those old guys know how to tease without you knowing that you are getting hit. 

I ran into another Chief candidate, Ruben Bunn. I was telling him that I read in the local town paper that he pulled out. He said yeah, that was wrong and he was upset with the paper for not checking. So he is getting a retraction. I wasn't even mentioned as someone running, so that is not a good sign. He is happy to visit and is confident in his chances. I was happy to talk with him, we have always been friendly acquaintances. My brother Don is running for a council position and he rented a room at the local hotel in Winnipeg, where the post-secondary students go to see the school counselor. I chipped in with him and Father Stan Fontaine did as well. Father Stan is no longer a priest but people still know him as Father Stan. He is running for a council position. Stan is a very educated and well traveled experienced individual. At the hotel we met Earl Fontaine, Lloyd Swampy Jr. and Randy Twoheart. They are also running for council positions. I was very impressed with Randy Twoheart. I think he is in his thirties but I can't be sure, he could be younger. He has worked in the conservation field for most of his adult life. He has a very good handle on the pressures that the Land around the community is under. Lloyd is a young man and is interested in the community. He is currently taking courses at a college and is eager to serve in the community. Earl is a veteran in the political circle, having served as a Councilor in our Reserve. A very likable guy with ideas. 

I have been seeing all sorts of people in the Reserve as well. I went and had lunch with  a friend that I went to school with when I was young. He works in the Reserve and is on the front lines of a lot of disgruntled individuals. So we had a nice visit. I was very happy to hear him say he supports me. That is the thing, many of the people I visited do not commit to you. I guess that is a telling sign but you never know. I visited a number of people that had harsh things to say about the mail in ballots, out of Reserve voters, housing going to off-Reserve and a host of other complaints. They spoke hard for quite awhile and I can only listen. I do not want to get into a "this person did this and that" type of gossip, but I know I can be guilty of that at times. Many people are forgetting hospitality when you go visiting them. No tea offered. So that might be a sign too that you are not getting their support. I went to visit a guy that keeps himself well informed of the happenings at the Band level. He is concerned about a number of issues in the community. I listened to him and hope to go visit him again if I get the chance. I do not believe he will support me, but he is interesting to talk to.

Lot of good people in the Reserve just trying to get by on what they earn or what they have to live on. My eyes opened up to see friends struggling but still maintaining a happy home. That humbles you (me really) and our complaints. I jokingly told my friend I am going to go posting on the blog that you are supporting me, so you can get in trouble with your cousin.  She laughed. I was happy to get a few calls from some of my relatives that I haven't seen in a long time. This one lady is such a happy lady that her laughter just rubs off on you.  I met with this one family that has a daughter that is ill, challenged and needs to get around by way of wheel chair. The house is small and there is no room for the child to get around the house. Her bed is in the living room and the house is not designed to accommodate wheel-chairs. It is also a house that is home to Grandchildren. I saw a number of homes like that, multi-families in one family size homes.

I was on the North Shore of the Reserve visiting John Black and Jerry Henderson. I have always liked John, he is very smart and can be pretty funny cheeky.  Anyway Jerry started giving me heck (kind of teasing) "and don't go just hiring your relatives!"  I said Okay, I'll try, as I laughed with him.  Another young man Cassidy Guimond had an open house for visitors yesterday. So I went with my friend Earl Morrisseau to go visit Cassidy. He had some great cake for his visitors. We sat and laughed for awhile with his family. Never really asking each other for support but mostly visiting. Some talk about Land and the loss of Land and the worry that comes with that.

I hope to talk to more people. People want you to go visit with them. You wouldn't think but it is quite tiring and time consuming going around visiting.  You are not there just to hand off your pamphlet and say hi. Although in some cases that is all you have time for as some people stand at the door and do not invite you in. I do not ask people to commit their vote to me, but I try to introduce who I am and let them know I would like to visit or converse with them when it is a good time to.

Below I have posted pictures of people I have seen, this does not indicate they have endorsed me. I also posted some pictures of Cheese's housing conditions. This is a very sad situation. The house floor is falling and there are holes in the floor from the wet rot of the wood. He uses a base board and his oven for heat. He has to tie up his hot water tank or it will fall over from the floor caving in. This is just one example of the conditions that people are up against. It is what our Council has to contend with when working with people. There is so much need but not enough resources. 

Going around selling your ideas and your character to people is quite a task. If you are timid, it can be overwhelming.  With time running down until the election, I am not sure how many homes I will actually get to. In the city it is a bit harder as you need to find out where people live and that is not always possible. Father Stan is going to hold a meet and greet in Winnipeg on the 21st, so I am hoping to join that event.

My Dad told me that when he was young there was no hidden ballot, just "stand by your man". Jimmy also told me the same thing, that people would pick out in the open and that was it, no hard feelings on who was selected.

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