Sheguiandah First Nation election 2013

Orville-AguonieOrville Aguonie promotes economic development as key to Sheg success

SHEGUIANDAH FIRST NATION—Economic development is the name of the game for Sheguiandah First Nation’s incumbent chief Orville Aguonie, who is hoping to take on a third term as chief of his community at this Saturday’s election.

“There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done,” Mr. Aguonie said during an Expositor interview last week, “and more changes that need to be made. We’re still not there in terms of building capacity and economic development.”

“When I was young, we had nothing here—Howland Township did it all—but now, with our own equipment, we have the ability to put in our own subdivision,” the incumbent shared.

Mr. Aguonie said that just before the school year started, the band purchased two school buses to deliver the community’s children to and from school. This, he said, will result in a savings at the end of the year compared to the $108,000 the band was paying the Sudbury Student Services Consortium, which oversees bus services.

The candidate for chief said the creation of a custom election policy is a pressing issue for him in light of the last year and the failure of chief and council to meet for over one year. (The community faced a roadside protest led by two of the three band councillors that lasted three months, beginning in August of 2012.) “Because of INAC’s (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) rules, those two councillors did what they did with no repercussions. I would like to have this new policy in place by the next election.”

The policy would also open up discussion on how the community votes, as well as the length of term. If it’s approved by INAC, then it can be passed into effect through band council resolution.

“In the face of everything, I stood firm I held my ground,” he said of the protest. “One of the main reasons I was elected to office is for my tenacity. I still managed to get things done—the purchase of school buses, new powwow grounds and the work toward completing the new roundhouse was started.”

Mr. Aguonie explained that under his leadership, the community was the recipient of a 50/50 Northern Ontario Heritage Fund/Sheguiandah First Nation grant for $207,000 for the work on the roundhouse. “And I foresee that happening again in the spring, once the funds start flowing again,” he said. The next steps for the roundhouse would see the addition of washrooms, a kitchen, geothermal heating as well as cottages and camping lots on its grounds.

“I’m also happy about the wind projects and the funds it will generate for the community—a minimum of $10 million over 20 years,” he continued. “The first installment this spring is $500,000. The remaining funds can be used as equity toward further economic development. What I especially like about this is that it’s our money and we can spend it how we want.”

On the land claim front, Mr. Aguonie explained that Sheguiandah First Nation is involved with the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising claim on lake beds and bottoms, as well as its own claim in the French River area on territorial lands that were never surrendered. As for Heywood Island, he said there has been “good progress” with its own research into the land, as well as dialogue with Wikwemikong, which also has an interest in the island.

As for a third term as chief, should Mr. Aguonie see himself re-elected his focus will be economic development, as well as the start of an economic development corporation.

This is also the second year of the community’s commercial fishing project and Mr. Aguonie said he would also like to see a branch into agriculture, all of which, he said, would help Sheguiandah become less reliant on government funds.

Mr. Aguonie said his community is in need of more housing, and a 54-lot subdivision has already been drafted. Talks with the First Nations Market Housing Fund have been in the works too, he added. He said his community’s immediate needs are housing units for single people, as well as assisted living quarters, which the elders have requested.

“We can keep moving forward, or take a couple of big steps backward,” Mr. Aguonie said. “When I came into office there was a $750,000 deficit, which has since been eliminated—I’m fiscally responsible.”

“I have the experience, the know-how and the business savvy to keep this community moving along,” he added. “Actions speak louder than words. Some people say what they’re going to do, but I’ve done it. With the help of staff and the good community behind me, we can really go places.”

The election for chief and council will take place between 9 am and 8 pm this Saturday, November 23 at the Sheguiandah First Nation community centre.

There are also nine names on the ballot for the three positions of councillor. They are Jake Ago neh, James Atkinson, Jackie Bowerman, Constance (Connie) Donaldson, April McDowell, Kevin (Gabby) Mishibinijima, Tanya Gertrude Sagutch, Georgina Thompson and Matthew Daniel Waindubence.

Richard-ShawandaRichard Shawanda has experience to see community through the future

SHEGUIANDAH FIRST NATION— “Let’s put the ‘unity’ back in ‘community’ and make a difference together,” Richard Shawanda’s flyer reads.

Richard Shawanda is running in this Saturday’s (November 23) election for chief of the Sheguiandah First Nation. He explained that he is not doing this for himself, but rather at the request of members of his community. Mr. Shawanda has 14 years of politics under his belt, 12 of which were spent as chief of his community from 1990 until 2002.

“I am proud of this community and I’m willing to dedicate my life to ensuring growth to areas such as governance, education, policing, social issues, culture and land,” he said. “I believe if we tackle our community difficulties as one we can find and live in harmony.”

“There’s a lot of community issues at this time and some people in the community feel I could help restore it,” he told The Expositor in an interview last week.

Mr. Shawanda said he blames government pressure for some of Sheguiandah’s problems, which in turn, he says, causes division. Band decisions should be made by the band, he added, not the federal government.

Mr. Shawanda pointed to the First Nations Education Act, released last month, which will give First Nations some say over their education, but absolute power and standards will remain with the government. “It’s a real headache,” he said of the education act, “but at the band level, they should have something to say.”

Mr. Shawanda says he envisions an elders’ council “with a set of teeth” that could direct chief and council, as well as a youth council. “Nobody knows better what the youth want than the youth themselves.”

The candidate for chief said he is pleased with his campaign so far and has made himself available to answer questions from his community.

“I never really left politics behind,” he said, noting that he has always kept close tabs on First Nations issues in Parliament.

Like many First Nations communities, Mr. Shawanda said housing is an issue with more units needed for single people and families. “There has been no new housing in the past four or five years, and that’s an issue.” The teens that were living at home five years ago are now young adults and looking for places of their own, he said, and “it’s difficult to house an extra 15 to 20 people with this strain.”

There are some rules surrounding Ontario Works, he added, that make it difficult for families with adult children to live with each other, or risk having their already small monthly allowance cut.

Mr. Shawanda also spoke to The Expositor about land claims issues facing Sheguiandah First Nation that are pressing to its people, noting Heywood Island in particular. While he realizes that Wikwemikong has also stated its interests in the island, past research he has done on the land has led him to “some workable conclusions that can be further discussed,” he said. As Sheguiandah has seen little information regarding Wikwemikong’s claim he was hesitant to go into detail, but said that the elders should have the chance to discuss the matter of Heywood Island.

On the topic of economic development, Mr. Shawanda said this must be one of the first things to be discussed in a new term, as this will also mean employment for the community.

“Leg work has to be done to access government funding,” he added. “Our youth want to stay here on Manitoulin,” Mr. Shawanda said, adding that every opportunity must be made to make sure they are successful on Manitoulin, allowing them equal access to post-secondary education.

“Right now, if the community has 12 students eligible for post-secondary education, only six of them would be able to go on in school under Indian Act funding,” Mr. Shawanda explained. “They then have to rely on social services. It’s not fair to have to pick and choose who gets to go, which has happened before.”

“I want to work with the education institutions to see all of them go without going over our education allowance,” he continued.

“There have been many policies made in the last 25 years that limit what First Nations can do,” the candidate said of the Indian Act. “It’s restrictive, with too many boundaries.”

“I would like to see the community continue on in a progressive manner,” Mr. Shawanda concluded. “I have 12 years of experience as chief and I was asked to come back at the request of the community—I think I have something to offer.”

The election for chief and council of the Sheguiandah First Nation will be held this Saturday, November 23 at the Sheguiandah First Nation community centre. Voting will commence at 9 am until 8 pm. Vaughan Johnston is the electoral officer.

Names on the ballot for the three positions of councillor are Jake Ago neh, James Atkinson, Jackie Bowerman, Constance (Connie) Donaldson, April McDowell, Kevin (Gabby) Mishibinijima, Tanya Gertrude Sagutch, Georgina Thompson and Matthew Daniel Waindubence.

 Alicia McCutcheon