Former chief challenges article on late Chief Richard Shawanda

A claim that the current state of band finances is grossly mismanaged

To the Expositor:

Re: Sheguiandah mourns loss of Chief Richard Shawanda

I would like to express my condolences to the Shawanda family on their loss of Richard Shawanda. That being said, I take exception to the article in the Expositor regarding Mr. Shawanda’s passing. (‘Sheguiandah mourns the loss of Chief Richard Shawanda,’ July 1, Page 3). I am not here to pass judgement on Richard’s personal life, but rather I want to clarify a few issues I have with the aforementioned article that shines a negative light on me and that of the previous staff and administration.

Firstly, this paper has to quit categorizing what took place in 2012 as “feuding camps.” This was not some kind of Hatfield and McCoy dispute that pitted one family against another. The protest, or as I like to call it, the “Hoax of 2012,” was an elaborately concocted story designed to sling mud and wrest sympathy from an unsuspecting public. It worked! People fell for it, hook line and sinker (including this paper). When elected to office as chief, I had a vision for my community but that vision could not be achieved without structure and massive changes to the status quo. In doing so, I made enemies along the way from a group of people who fought tooth and nail to keep things the way they were.  A campaign to oust the leadership and return things to the dysfunctional old way was born. It was decided that this would be achievable by any means necessary, including making false statements. At the end of the day, I am totally vindicated. All allegations have been proven false including the criminal case that my wife and I had to endure. That really says a lot when one person can take on six witnesses in a court of law and win. All the so-called witnesses in my trial should have been charged with “public mischief” for making false statements but that’s a story for another day.

The second statement I take exception to is how Chief Shawanda returned “a measure of stability to the community.” Richard was the leader of a group that brought the “instability” to Sheguiandah First Nation (SFN) in the first place. There was nothing wrong with the structure or the finances of SFN under my tenure and the audits prove that. The protest was as much about people who wanted power (for all the wrong reasons) as it was about the two former band councillors (Derek Assiniwe and Kevin Mishibinijima) who couldn’t get their way.

In the end, the financial and structural instability has returned to my community. Under the late chief’s watch gross financial mismanagement and lack of structure is once again the norm in SFN. Under this council’s watch, the community’s fire truck has been sold, the Housing Policy has been scrapped, a half a million dollars from the wind turbines has been squandered, Councillor Georgina Thompson continues to sit in the band manager’s chair under the guise of “Interim Management Team” (doesn’t “interim” mean short term?), council meetings have been sporadic at best, there is no transparency or accountability and we are once again in a financial deficit position. The list goes on and on…how’s that for stability? Just because the membership doesn’t stand on the side of the road for 52 days like a bunch of idiots, doesn’t mean there isn’t instability. I dispute the assertion that this paper makes in regards to “stability” being brought to our community. Unfortunately for the band, this is Richard Shawanda’s legacy and when you’re in the public spotlight, you are judged for your actions and inactions. It is what it is, no sugar coating here.

In closing, I would like to quote the late Gordon Totoosis from the television show ‘Blackstone,’ “Leadership is not about ascension to power; rather, it is a submission to duty.”

Orville Aguonie

Sheguiandah First Nation