Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Election time in Sagkeeng

Well has it been two years already?  Seems like just yesterday we had a vote for Chief and Council in Sagkeeng First Nation. Personally I would like the community to be called Sagkeeng Anishinaabe Nation, but First Nation is popular all over Canada. Our Chief and Council only have two years to make an impact in the community, unless they of course are re-elected.

Election time is a fun and interesting time in the community. Rumours run amok. Lot of speculation of who will run and for what position. Actually a person can run for both positions if they prefer. Some communities actively practice that custom. If a person is not selected for Chief, she or he might be elected as a council member. In our Reserve that has not really been the case, and I can see people not looking favourable on something like that; people generally don't accept change.

I have made attempts to get into council in our community but have been unsuccessful. That tells a person something: your politics is not acceptable, you are not acceptable, or you are not getting your message across. In any case I will stand on the sidelines and watch to see what takes place this year. I think the nomination process will take place in the next two weeks, February 20, 2013.

A person can still try to participate in a Reserve election process even if they are not running for council. They can talk with candidates and let them know your ideas. You can publicly support a candidate or candidates. You can try to speak with other community members on the merits of a candidate.

In an election on Reserve some things you can be sure of: someone will win and someone will lose. Someone will say bad things about a candidate. That is a given. Sorry state of politics anywhere. There is a tendency to knock down rather than build up. I am the same in that regard and that's such an ugly trait. We can always try and be better in that respect. Talk good instead of bad, about people.

My Thoughts on community:

I believe in a Chief and Council position as vital to our community. We must respect those roles. However, it is not a dictatorship. They say the most efficient system of governance is a single voice system. That is good if that voice is benevolent and considers the whole interests of the community. However, if the single voice is focused on self, than the whole community suffers. Our Governance system is flawed as it is. It was designed as control mechanism in the time of the Indian agent. No real consideration for the electorate. That system has just continued to thrive.  A real change in how we govern our community is required. What that change is I have no clue. I just know its not a copy of the Indian Act election process and governance that we currently exercise. 

I would really like for the community to think of our council as a government. Not a loans office.  That seems to be a common function of Reserve councils. They are bombarded with requests of help from the community members. "I need this..." Treat them as leaders and perhaps they will see what leadership role means.

When our Chief and Council are elected there is no protocol or ceremonial aspect to the assuming of those leadership roles. The people are nominated, a date is set, people vote, votes are counted, at the end of count chosen candidates start to work. There is no transfer of power. There is no oath to office, or pledge to the people. There is not visible acknowledgment that a vital community event took place. What's up with that? I think our council should have at least a Community Feast. Make a Pledge to the Creator in front of the people that they will work for the people. I would like to see that. Maybe if they openly pledge to the Creator that they will try and continue good for the community. At certain Initiation Ceremonies, the people take a pledge to the Creator, in front of people, to do what they can. The selection of a Chief and Council is a huge event and should have some type of commemoration of that event.

The biggest concern or issue that I have is information. Information gate keeping is a power aspect. Or an attempt to have power. That is arse backward. Sharing of information with the public is the true power. Let people know what is going on, and whether or not people agree, people will respect that. Of course in our community there are those that will never be pleased no matter what you do. That is the nature of an ill community (as many Reserves are).  In my opinion we could always use more communication from the Leadership to the people. Right now, the election is used as the main venue for communication. Chief and Council have in the past (and this year is no different) used the timing of the election to put out information as to what is taking place at Council level. The communique is carefully scripted to highlight only successful maneuvers and leaves out short comings of the last two years. A tactic that is not fair to prospective candidates. I don't appreciate that type of manipulation for individual gain or praise.

I hope that people in the community can think critically and not emotionally. Think about what is being said by each candidate. Look for substance rather than hollow parlance. "I will work for the people, I will fight for more houses, I will work with everyone".  There are many good meaning people that want your vote. It is not enough to be a good person. You have to have the tools to be able to be in that position. We have all seen the glad handling and superficial gestures that have put people in office before. With all the motion in the Indian community and the Federal government, you know we need effective and long range thinkers to lead with us.

I would like to see our members take stock of what has happened to the whole community. Not just individually. Sure if I received a house I would be grateful, but would I be thinking of the whole community's future. Sentimentality is one way to choose a leader, but is it the right way?

 My critique is meant to be general and not aimed specifically at any Council member, past or present. It is more of the structural nature of community councils and systems. Maybe some of my own bias seeped out and I apologize for that.

Good feelings to all the people taking part in this years election. I hope for the best choice for the community.

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