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Looking past the flooding
New Nahanni Butte chief sees housing, education and employment as key issues

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 28, 2012

When Clayton Konisenta was acclaimed chief it was to a community in a midst of a disaster.

NNSL photo/graphic

Clayton konisenta: Says the flood has shown how the residents of Nahanni Butte can depend on each other. - NNSL file photo

Four days before the June 12 election, Nahanni Butte began to flood and Konisenta took power as the majority of the band members were living as evacuees in Fort Simpson.

"It's one of the biggest challenges I've faced," said Konisenta about being chief for a community recovering from a substantial flood. "I've never turned down a challenge."

Konisenta said with the support of the community, the band council and the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), he has confidence Nahanni Butte will bounce back from the disaster.

Speaking on June 18, Konisenta said there were some positive developments emerging from the flood.

"In a way, it brought us to be closer together as one big family," he said referring to the Nahanni Butte residents.

We now know that we can depend on each other during future challenges, he said.

Konisenta has lived in Fort Simpson for approximately the past three years and has worked for the Canadian Zinc Corporation since 2006. Now that he's been acclaimed chief, Konisenta plans to set his job aside and return to his home community.

Looking beyond the flood, Konisenta said that housing, education and employment are among the biggest issues facing the community. Konisenta said he plans to create work opportunities by accessing MACA's funding programs to the fullest and also by obtaining contracts for the band's development corporation.

Konisenta also hopes to work with Aurora College to help band members upgrade their education. With higher education, particularly in the area of technology, Nahanni Butte residents will be able to better their lives, he said.

To address the housing issue, Konisenta plans to meet with members and develop ideas and then work with the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation to implement them.

Konisenta said he decided to run for the position of chief because he wanted to help improve the community and give its residents new opportunities to improve their lives. The people have confidence in me and I have confidence in them, he said.

Konisenta said his immediate goals include making sure the community is safe, cleaning it up and then returning people to their homes.

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