Anishinabek Nation chief reelected

Deputy grand chief Glen Hare acclaimed

CURVE LAKE— Incumbent Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee was returned for another three-year term to the head of the council table of the Anishnabek Nation (Union of Ontario Indians) during the Grand Council Assembly June 2, 3 and 4 in Curve Lake First Nation.

“We had a very good grand council and passed major initiatives including those in education and our well-being law,” said Chief Madahbee during a brief stopover at home in Aundeck Omni Kaning before heading back out on the road for more meetings.

“The chiefs chose to sustain the momentum we have built on a lot of issues,” said Chief Madahbee about his 32-10 election victory. “I feel I have provided strong leadership in my previous terms and I am grateful to the chiefs for allowing me to continue serving in the role of grand chief. There is a lot of work to do in the three years ahead.”

Chief Madahbee praised the other contender for the position of grand chief. “Chief Lyle Sayers is quite a dynamic leader in his own right who has served his community very well for 19 years,” he said.

The grand chief position calls for a different level of politics, noted the grand chief. “I have been fortunate to have had experience at different levels, provincial, federal and international,” he said. In the end that experience may have played a role in the chiefs’ decision.

“I am happy to see the consistency in our approach,” said Chief Hare, who expressed relief that the electoral process was over. “You never know until they have lined up behind you.” Although he was unopposed for his position for the second term in a row, Chief Hare quipped that the reason might be “nobody else wants my job.” Turning serious, however, the deputy chief said that he was very grateful for the confidence expressed in him by the Anishinabek leadership and that he was looking forward to meeting the challenges in the years ahead. “I feel good to be here for another three years,” he said. “We have done a lot of ground work, on education, social and child welfare issues, not only us but everybody.” The constitutional framework that will enable turning the policies into reality will need work at both the Anishinabek Nation and local community level. “We are working with communities to help them bring in their own constitutions,” he noted.

Chief Hare noted that the summit meetings with the premier and her cabinet coming up in August in Fort William will offer an important opportunity to move a number of critical issues forward. “We had dates in May and July, but the premier (Kathleen Wynne) said that she wanted to be there and this was the date that worked for everyone,” he said. “The last couple of years she has been very supportive of our initiatives and she has gotten involved, we hope that dialogue can continue.”

The deputy chief was not as effusive in his praise of discussions at the federal level. “But we hope to take care of that this fall,” he said. “I want to encourage all of our people to get out and vote, help make that change happen. It is very important.”

Elder Gordon Waindubence conducted this year’s ceremonies using the traditional stand-up election process. Each candidate standing around a blanket as the voting chiefs line up behind the candidate of their choice.

Mr. Waindubence, who has officiated at several previous assemblies, conducted the ceremonies alongside various members of the Anishinabek Nation including Maurice Switzer, whose served as Oshkabewis to Elder Waindubence , announcing the election rules/protocols and assisting Elder Waindubence with the process; Anishinabek Kwe-Wuk Council Members/Kwe, the women whose traditional role has been to confer power onto the grand council chief and deputy grand chief to lead the Anishinabek Nation; as well as members of the UOI Elders Council; youth and students from the Curve Lake First Nation, who acted as official counters; and Leah Stock and Rhonda Couchie, the assembly organizers/UOI technicians.

Candidates were invited to join the chiefs’ circle and sit next to their nominator after which Mr. Switzer explained the nomination and election process and nominations were declared open.

Mr. Waindubence then conducted a pipe ceremony to begin the circle and the nominators offered tobacco to their nominee during the circle. By accepting the tobacco Chief Madahbee and Chief Sayers indicated that they accepted their nomination for the position of grand council chief and Chief Hare for deputy grand council chief.

Following the seconding of the nominations, a sweat lodge was conducted for the nominees and following that, a feast was held to close out the opening day activities.

On the following day, each nominator for grand council chief candidates had five minutes to introduce their nominee, then each nominee had 10 minutes in which to address the assembly. The speaking times were indicated by the beat of the drum. Following the short speeches, the chiefs or their official delegates were asked to stand behind their candidates. In a multi-candidate contest, the election continues in a preferential balloting process, with the candidate having the fewest supporters sitting down and his supporters lining up behind another candidate until one candidate has a plurality. In this case the decision took only one round.

Following the indication of a successful candidate, all of the chiefs stood behind the selected candidate to show unity and support for the Nation.

A pipe and blanket ceremony was then conducted with the grand council chief and deputy grand council chief after which Chief Madahbee and Deputy Chief Hare addressed the assembly.