Five candidates vie for chief of Sheshegwaning First Nation

EDITOR’S NOTE: candidates have been nominated for the Sheshegwaning First Nation Chief, in chief and band council elections being held this Saturday, November 20. The Expositor has allowed each of the candidates the opportunity to provide a brief biography of themselves, why they would be a suitable candidate to be elected, their past work and political experience and what they would like to accomplish if elected. Four candidates, Dean Roy, Alana Endanawas, Joe Endanawas and Joseph Laford sr. are being featured in this week’s edition of The Expositor. Despite several attempts to contact candidate John Wabegijig, The Expositor was not able to reach him in time for this week’s deadline.

Alana Endanawas

With great honour, I have accepted the nomination of chief in the upcoming Sheshegwaning band election. I truly believe that I will be able to positively help move the community goals. Some of the priorities that the community wants to focus on include health and wellness, education and life-long learning, land and environment, cultural affirmation, governance tools, infrastructure and housing development, emergency planning, business ventures and economic development.

Since 2006, I have been working and providing services for our community of Sheshegwaning First Nation. Working in various job positions for the last eight  years, I have held the title of Ontario Works Administrator. In 2013 I was elected as a councilor for one term, and in 2015 I went on maternity leave to focus on taking care of my new baby girl and oldest daughter. I was then re-elected to council in 2017 and again in 2019. As part of my lifelong learning, I will be applying to the Indigenous Governance (online) program with WFI.

Alana Endanawas

Some of the priorities I would like to accomplish in my term if elected chief is to continue with the existing initiatives: help ratify the land use plan when complete, help with developing policies that enable good governance over our lands. I would like to develop a “best practice” set of guidelines for development, develop a comprehensive community engagement strategy, develop a clear 10-year education and lifelong learning strategy. Continuing to support out youth is necessary. I would love to see a consistent youth council for our future leaders, to develop a strategy aimed at increasing self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-reliance for all community youth. 

I would love to see more training support and job opportunities for all community members who may be interested.

I endorse supporting our entire community by developing a holistic model based on the medicine wheel and elder advising to fully address the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of the community, to develop a community-wide strategy based on the Seven Grandfather Teachings. With the Truth and Reconciliation and the impact of our history for generations, supporting our entire community towards recovery is upper most.

I feel that I would be a great chief for the community since I’ve always cared for and valued Sheshegwaning and its community members as a whole. I also will maintain the purpose of the Sheshegwaning First Nation Kchi-Naaknigewin (Constitution).

Joseph Endanawas

I was born and raised on the Sheshegwaning First Nation. Both my parents were fluent in the Odawa language and practiced traditional teachings. I am fluent in our language.

In the early 1960s I graduated from high school in Gore Bay.  I mostly worked in manufacturing in Ontario and Michigan after high school. During my time in Michigan, I was in the American Army from 1968 to 1970 active and in the Reserves until 1974.

I came back to Sheshegwaning in the mid-1970s to help with family matters. There was an opening for a band administrator. I was elected as a councillor a few times during the period of the 1960s to the 1980s. 

I was first elected as chief of Sheshegwaning in 1989-1993, then from 2009-2015 for a total of 10 years as chief. I have always believed that the role of the chief is to support the people to improve their status in life. I believe that the chief should not be above the people, as we are all equal in the clan system of government. We all have a role.

I worked at the United Chiefs and Councils as the Fish and Wildlife Coordinator during the time of Operation Rainbow. My main role was to educate our people and the general public of our Aboriginal and Treaty rights in the areas of hunting and fishing and access to our traditional territory.

Joseph Endanawas

From 2002-2009 I worked with the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin Island in the Alternative Justice Program as the Community Justice Worker. In this program we took clients from the court system and dealt with them through traditional healing circles instead of them possibly going to jail. Proud to say we had many successes in this program. 

I am presently employed with the Union of Ontario Indians as the ratification vote manager for the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement (ANGA) vote. I also worked as the vote manager for the education agreement which was voted on in 2016.

As I have been employed with Anishinabek political organizations in various capacities, I have gained years of experience on how things are accomplished when dealing with various government organizations. I am also up to date on the various issues confronting our First Nations presently. 

Since I have been involved with local government and our political organizations, I am aware of how restrictive and controlling the Indian Act is to our people. We have been struggling to change the Indian Act all these years and to the credit of our leadership and court challenges by our people, we have accomplished changes to the Indian Act.

I believe that although we might not get rid of the Indian Act all at once, we are chipping away at it and someday it will be no more. But I also have been telling our leadership that we have to have something to replace the Indian Act.

The Anishinabek Nation has negotiated an agreement with Canada, known as the Anishinabek National Governance Agreement, and the First Nations are in the process of ratifying this agreement by a vote process by individual First Nations.

There are many issues that face a First Nation on a daily basis, we will continue with work on these with staff already in place.

I am determined to see the First Nation ratify the ANGA and start the implementation process on having our own laws on leadership selection, citizenship, language, culture, management and operations. This would be a start to getting out from under the Indian Act.

With my years of experience as a former chief and band administrator and working with our political organizations in various capacities, I would be able to assist my First Nation in bettering their position in life.

Joseph Laford 

Joseph Laford

Joseph Laford’s traditional spirit name in the Ojibwe language is Gii-mahn-kwat. Translated to the English language, this means Chief Cloud. His clan is the Nemeh (Sturgeon) Clan. I am a proud member of the Ojibwe Tribe, also known as the Faith Keepers. I was born on Manitoulin Island, the fourth great stopping place in the migration of the Anishinabek, where I continue to reside.

I served a five-year stint with the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers which is a field workshop supporting the front lines in the Canadian Army. I successfully graduated as an Addictions and Mental Health Worker with honours from Cambrian Community College.

My passion and life’s work are dedicated to bringing wellness to communities and individuals. I am a well-versed native resource with real life experience in personal growth through spiritual wellness and cultural identity. I firmly believe the road to wellness includes an individual first finding and secondly accepting their identity.

In recent years, I have been actively involved with the youth of the community, during which, they have openly expressed their desire for transparency and accountability from First Nation leadership. The youth have indicated that they are interested in being involved with how the community is being governed.

I strongly believe that communication to the membership at large is imperative to building a healthy and cohesive community. Communications will involve sharing information, which our membership, listening to concerns and needs of everyone and involves educating the community on existing laws and by-laws in place and developing from additional community growth needs. Key points to long-term planning will include: expanding health and medical services, reviewing and planning for seniors’ living/residences, accessing alternative sources of funding to develop capital projects, housing, infrastructure and developing Sheshegwaning customary election laws.

This plan is one I take seriously. It will need everyone in the community working together as a team to move forward for the betterment of everyone, children, youth, adults and elders.

Dean Roy, incumbent

Dean Roy

I have a BSc from Laurentian University, six years as chief of Sheshegwaning, have participated on Anishinabek Nation Leadership Council and Chiefs Committees (economy, governance, environment), AES/KEB Chiefs Committee Chair, director/trustee/president Sheshegwaning Business Entities, currently serving my fourth term on First Nations Finance Authority board of directors.

During my current term of office, my lobbying efforts have secured over $4 million dollars for economic and roads projects which have had a direct positive impact on our Odawa Stone business, which was positioned to provide the aggregates, resulting in its first self-sustaining year since opening. We’ve secured $700,000 for the project management and design plan for the new school, with construction funds (approximately $6 million)  expected to flow in time for summer 2022 construction. We have secured $3.25 million ($600,000 ICCGP, $1 million FedNor, $1 million NOHFC, $650,000 FNFA) toward leadership centre construction.

During the COVID-19 state of emergency, I was extremely proud to have played a key role in our security team evolving to become Sheshegwaning Naagdawenjgek, a province-wide provider for First Nations evacuation support. Additionally, we have secured our first hydroponic grow system, now operating as Odawa Freshwater Gardens.

During this term, I also played a key role in Sheshegwaning First Nation implementing market-based housing through the First Nation Market Housing Fund, and securing our first banking partner with BMO.

I want to be there to ensure that these projects don’t lose traction, especially the capital projects, as planning cycles have taken over 5 years, and a lot of hard work.

For the next term, my priorities are to continue to advocate for SFN interests, capital and community development, continue efforts toward sovereign revenue generation, continue efforts towards the assertion of SFN jurisdiction and nation building.

I am for the people and for the future.