Fixing the Sagkeeng Problem: February 18, 2015
What is the problem with Sagkeeng? Is there one? Is it the Chief and Council? Is it the people?
Elections are coming up very soon and nominations are taking place this week. Exciting times I would think. Elections are always exciting. Who is going to run and for what position? Who is going to nominate who and who is supporting who? All kinds of talks go on when it is election time. Everyone has an idea on who should be Chief and what should be done in the community. I have some ideas and opinions just like everyone else. I am taking the time to write them down and share with you. You may agree or you may think I am full of Moo. That’s cool. I get that. The messenger is also scrutinized as much as the message is; fair enough.
So where to start?
The easiest and best way to start with anything is to ask this question: “How will this benefit the community?” This should be the first question every person in the Band should ask before anything is decided.
Communication: Let’s start with what everyone seems to see and talk about, our Chief and Council (whoever it is going to be) and past practices. It is essential, essential that Chief and Council communicate with the people. I don’t mean a Band meeting to announce what they did or a news letter to be used as tool at election time, but by talking to people. Letting them know what is going on. How do they do that? Use the radio station and tell people what is going on, Where the Reserve is financially; Where the housing situation is at; what are plans of development and all that goes on. Use regular news letters to talk about the C & C’s activities (look at Peguis regular news good and bad). The social media is big now. Chief and Council have the means to communicate with people that way. The Web site of the Band is horrible. No way to contact anyone to give feedback. No way to communicate with Council or Administration. Build a Web site that the Reserve can be proud of. An excellent example of openness is Alderville First Nation web site. http://www.aldervillefirstnation.ca/ The web site is a window to your home community and our window is embarrassing. That is an easy fix to one of the biggest concerns for the Reserve-communication. Just tell people what is going on. No excuse for it, because there are so many options and avenues for passing information to the people. You should embrace the openness. It is an ally to the Chief and Council. One of the biggest assets to a strong community is the communication with people. Dictator countries filter communication. That is not what being a community, a Native community should be about.
Leadership: People are leery of who is in Council or who is in administration/management for the Band. That’s just the nature of any community. Who are our Leaders and managers? That distrust is not helpful for the community. We have to believe our Leaders and Managers are there for the best interest of the WHOLE community. How do we gain back trust? First thing is to start with Administration. Make our workers accountable. Do regular assessments of their performance on the job. Do they arrive on time? Leave early? Miss any days for work? Do they adhere to confidentiality? Are they doing a good job? Do they return calls and inquiries in an appropriate time? Are they demonstrating good work citizenship behavior, do they have good work habits? Its starts at the main manager and all the way along the job trail of what should be good job behavior. They must know that all funds transferred to the Band are on the behalf of ALL the people so in that sense they work for the people. The people all should be respectful and understand the role they have as well. So really it is about doing the work and doing it well. Need to ensure that it is being done. If someone is not performing then time to let someone else do the job, simple.
The Chief and Council must know and conduct themselves as our Leaders and NOT managers. Don’t spend your time administering money to people. That is your managers’ duties. Let them do that job. Chiefs-Councils have to know what Leadership is. I am sure that many do not know or have an idea of what that entails. I bet many wonder what they should do on a day to day basis. “Should I go into office today?” “What should I do there today?” Leaders have be looked at as leaders and not “fixers”. You are not there to fix the door of every band member. Nor are you there to give pamper money to someone who spent their money! Ask yourself, if I come and ask you for $50 for gas money to get to Brandon hockey tournament, “how is that going to benefit the Reserve?” If it is not a benefit for the Reserve, don’t give it out! That money is on Behalf of the Whole community and not as your personal fixer fund. Leaders have to have the will to say NO! To all these requests for financial aid/gifts/loans. Simple! If you are having a hard time to say no, let people know what is going on. Every individual that approaches you for help from Band funds should be aware that is part of the public’s right to know. You let people know that I am at the Band office asking for money. Maybe it will curb my appetite for getting money from the Band. But if you want to lend or give me money from you OWN wallet, well that’s your decision. Money from the Band is on behalf of all members – On and Off Reserve. So go back to the communication fix and let people know. In Traditional Native Affairs, the affairs of the community are done in the open, not in secret like a church confessional.
Oath to Office: Our Reserve lacks the protocols of Leadership acknowledgment. We have no public record of our Chief and Council. We have no Oath from them that they will, in the eyes of Creator perform their duties as best as they can, with a good heart for the People. We need to have Ceremony of acknowledgment when a New Leadership is chosen. Why is this not a community event? I would like to see the Leaders announce to everyone there that they are going to do the best for the people. Like in an Ogichidaa initiation ceremony, you announce to the Creator, in front of witnesses that you are going to do right for the people. A simple thing but the meaning is significant. Maybe if this was done more, people would start treating and recognizing our Leaders as Leaders and not fixers to their wants.
The role of the Community/People: The People in our community have a duty. A duty to their families and to our Home. That is to behave in a fashion that benefits the whole community. Because if the whole community is doing well, then our individual families are doing well. Simple as that. However, we have become less of a community and more of a group of individual pockets. All these pockets wanted only what is best for them. So with competing interests that doesn’t help the whole community. When you and I go and badger the Chief and Council for a house, for money, for repairs, how does that benefit the whole community? It surely does not. But everyone has been getting free stuff so I should as well. That is not a mindset of community needs but thinking of myself only. That must stop. How to stop it? Simple, no more free stuff. No more social housing/free house. No more money gifts, or loans from Band. No more by-passing the finance manager to go to a Councilor for money. People have lost their sense of identity. They have become less than the community and more about me, me, me. That is one of the biggest problems on Reserve.
“Oh, you don’t live on Reserve, so you don’t know.” Where should people live? There are no houses, no jobs. So they have no choice but to look outside of the Reserve. Does that make them less of a Band member? Of course not. That is selfish thinking and mindset that there is a divide between off and on Reserve. That was one of the policies of government and we are using it on our own people now. Or worse yet the divide of North and South. It is the drive of selfishness that continues that debate of north and south. For what purpose? It is for personal gain, plain and simple. People say but the north side gets nothing. Perhaps there is truth to that complaint. So as a community, a whole community we should fix it. First make a community land use policy. As it is now, there is no open Band land in the Reserve, everyone has a claim on the open parcels. So bad in some cases where a road had a toll to use it? Not sure if that was true but you hear the stories. If there is open land for new development, maybe it would happen.
People have to stop saying “I never get anything from the Band.” Do you see how ugly that is? Are we as a community so used to getting hand outs that it is now our battle cry? “I don’t get nothing from the Band.” Do your kids go to school? Get on a school bus? Does any of your siblings/parents/children/grandchildren live in a Band house? Do you have running water? Do you have garbage pickup? All of these things are from the Band. And the Band is all of the people. So when the Band does these things, it is for All the Band, not just me or you. So that is the thing we need to stop. That attitude of wanting to get stuff from the Band. Do you know how much pressure we put on our Leader, our managers with our constant demands? How would you feel? If every single time you met one of the community members and they asked you for something? Awful right? Well that is the role of the community. To start acting like a community and to treat Leaders as Leaders. Ask yourself, ‘what do I want from a leader?’ Do I want at leader to give me stuff? To give stuff to others? Or do you want a leader to fight for your Rights as a Band member and a member of Treaty?
The Role of the community member is as and even more important than the Leader. Your Leader takes direction from you. If you want a leader that is going to be a fixer of minor financial woes, than that is what you will get. You want a leader that is going to be a leader and act on behave of the whole community, well you have to back them like that.
Housing, Education, employment, economy, fire department, policing, child family, social, religion, Elderly, Land use, Shoreline, public works:
The areas of concern are many. Lot of areas for the community and the Chief and Council to address. It all starts with communication. Open the lines. Board appointments. Housing lists and repair lists. Get rid of free housing. People complain about mold in their house. Elders should be the exception for repairs. But most people should have responsibility of maintaining their homes. They call them “Band houses” and expect the band to look after that home for ever. None of the responsibility but having all the privilege of ownership. How does that benefit whole community? If people are not willing to look after a “Band house” then they should know that Band will give it to someone who will appreciate it and maintain it. Simple.
Start to ask for Elder input on the use of Land. Who had what, where and when. Get rid of all trivial land claims by greedy individuals. The Band belongs to all. If you want to own land go and purchase some out of the community. Simple. But don’t expect the Band to supply you with unlimited amount of Land. Where in the heck are the Children and Grandchildren, Great-Grandchild going to build? The people have to look at and understand the Intent of what the Old people wanted for the community. It was not about the individual. That is the greatest threat to Sagkeeng. Becoming an place of individuals as oppose to a community. Ask yourself when did it change and how come it changed?
I will not address all the issues now, but you see the intent behind this letter. It is to start discussion, to open dialog, and maybe get beyond the crisis of community splitting (figuratively and literally). Look at what used to work and what could work for the best interest of Sagkeeng.
Hey! Sagkeeng Candidates and Sagkeeng Voters:
Consider this when you are at the polls. And please share.
1. Housing – Sagkeeng needs to do a true account of the housing situation and needs of the people, both on and off the Reserve. Do a survey of how many home owners are there, how many share in the house, how fit is the house, how old is the house, how was the house gotten, has the house been repaired, etc., how many houses are needed in the community. How many people outside of the Reserve are renters, how many people own a house? It might be an idea to ask people if they would be interested in home ownership through purchase. Consider ending free housing. Have contracts for home owners to keep care of their home. Ask for ideas on the housing situation.
2. Economic Development – Sagkeeng needs to network with the communities in the East Side of Lake Winnipeg. Meet ad hoc to start off with various people from each community to brain storm about business development in the area. How to increase traffic for business in each community. Look at the potential of traffic from Island Lake areas and the all weather road. What kind of industry can work in the area? Etc. It may be a good idea to start supporting more local entities and get rid of jealousy factor. When the local gun store was targeted by the police and the courts, what action could or should have been taken by the Band to assist in the business?
3. Funerals – Funerals are a big cost and getting bigger to the Band. Everyone has the right to choose their own Funeral Director and place of business. However, the Band should support local. If people want to choose someone outside of the Band, than that is their prerogative, but not a Right for the Band to pay for that choice. The Band should limit its support to local providers.
4. Schools – The education system is in need of a review. Language and identity should be paramount in the schools. Discipline and strict adherence to respect; of school mates, teachers, property and rules. No more of sitting in the hallways and showing no regard for the school. Parents to be held accountable for the actions of their children. Make them sign contracts of conduct. Have more Cultural events and content in schools. The Harvest Week should be attended by more than the school children but by the community as well. Teachers to be treated with respect and they also conduct themselves in a professional manner-both in the way they present themselves and the way they teach. No free time in gym, shops etc. More Parent information and presentations. Start an active Teacher parent group.
5. Information – This is vital to the community. No more secrets. Let everyone know about the activities of the Band. Is there a Band list for services? Have it posted. Have people been asking for loans and receiving them? Post it. Going for conference? Have whoever goes; make a presentation on what took place, the networking and how it will benefit the Band. Open up the communication. Let the community know of the abusers of the Band office, staff and leadership.
6. Jobs – Have a review of performance. Start with a management round table of all the heads of various departments. See what their activities are, what they expect the year to be and where they see the department in the next few years. Measure performance. How many clients/customers/patients seen in the last period (yearly, quarterly, monthly)? How has been their attendance? How is their attitude to the job? What is their conduct? Have the CEO be the eyes, ears, voice of the Band office.
7. Band endeavors – What are the current projects of the Band? What are the benefits/costs and implications? What are outstanding issues/projects/lawsuits?
8. Band Councilors/Chiefs – Do they have the skills to do the job? Do they know what the job is about? Are they there for a paycheck? Do they share information? Do they have adequate knowledge level, skill level to be a representative of all the people of Sagkeeng?
9. Policing – Is there adequate policing for the community? Who over sees their conduct and performance? How can it be better?
10. Fire Department – Who is the oversight? What are the performance measures of doing a good job? How many recruits have been made? What is the daily routine of the fire department? What is the maintenance schedule for the trucks? How can we do better?
11. Land – what is the current land use plan of Sagkeeng and its Traditional area?
12. Hydro – new ideas or status quo?
13. Traditional activities – Hunting fishing? What is the current situation? Is there a need for future planning and conservation initiatives?
14. Infrastructure – Schools, Buildings, Roads, water pipes, sewage system etc. What is the current situation? What are the plans for up keep and maintenance.
15. Emergency – Who does the planning and what are the plans and for what type of emergencies?
16. Recreation – What are the plans for recreation? Who is the main driving force behind kids activities? The Parents, the School, the Band? How can the community support the kids?
17. Older Population – Who supports the Elderly beside the Care Home? What is the situation and what else needs to be done?
18. Gaming - need an open account of activities, expenditures and revenues and what is supported with monies from gaming.
19. Health Centre – Needs to move secondary services from new building to old building and put primary services like the doctor offices/dental/nursing into the new building. Put support services in the older complex. Wasn’t that purpose of health center anyway?
20. Respect and Kindness – It should be our go to place when dealing with each other - Our first position, our default spot if you will. Sure everyone gets angry and that is normal. But we should start dialog with kindness first. Have healthy discussion rather than heated uncontrolled anger. The nomination meeting was an example of anger displaced. The anger was at the situation but was directed at an individual. Is that how we want our community to go forward?
Everyone has ideas; there should be a productive respectful and open way to convey those ideas. Emotions are hard to control and we are very emotionally invested because it is about our community, which means our lives and the lives of our relatives. So it is understandable to be upset at the situation and sometimes the players in the situation. Still it is our people. We can be a very strong and good place if we just start with that outlook. Nothing wrong in disagreement.