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Vote for change
Gwich'in Tribal Council to focus on better communication with people: new executive

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gwich'in beneficiaries voted for change on Friday, electing Robert Alexie Jr. over incumbent president Richard Nerysoo.

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Robert Alexie Jr.: Says he will bring more transparency and accountability to the council. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

"It feels good," said Alexie after his win. "I was cautiously optimistic at the outcome, and if I thought I didn't have a good chance, I wouldn't have run."

Norman Snowshoe was elected to take over as vice-president from Mary Ann Ross, who chose not to run in this year's election.

"I did a lot of campaigning, I was hoping for those results and I got them," Snowshoe told Inuvik Drum. "I was elated, especially with the voter turnout."

Last week's election marked the first time ballots were collected in communities outside of the traditional Gwich'in communities. Polls were set up in Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Edmonton after complaints during the 2008 elections that voters in those centres could not cast their ballots in time.

Voter turnout was estimated to be higher than previous elections, though final numbers were not available as of press time.

Both Snowshoe and Alexie were raised in Fort McPherson, and both have similar visions for the future of the Gwich'in Tribal Council (GTC) specifically, to re-connect with their people.

"My big priority is to re-establish ties with the Gwich'in communities and the Gwich'in peoples themselves," said Snowshoe. "To get that relationship back with the tribal council."

Alexie re-iterated his pre-election message of a need for more transparency and accountability within the tribal council. He plans to accomplish this through open meetings and travelling to the communities.

"I'm going to open up the doors of the tribal council and invite them in one by one and we shall go through what's happening and take it out to the communities," he said.

During the coming four-year term, several important issues are slated to be dealt with. At the top of this list is devolution, as the territorial government is promising to push for a final agreement to be ratified as early as this fall. The GTC is locked in a court battle with the GNWT regarding lack of consultation for the current Devolution Agreement-in-Principal.

Neither Alexie nor Snowshoe were prepared to comment on the case, which is still before the courts. Both said they needed to consult with their constituents before deciding how to proceed.

"The big issues that are on the table right now are devolution, self-government and economic development in this region, so we have to address those," said Snowshoe. "It's going to be huge, getting the communities and ourselves up to speed on those issues."

While these legislative issues are sure to take up a fair amount of time in the coming term, there are other more basic needs that cannot be ignored by the council, said Alexie.

"Unemployment and under-education are big issues," he said. "So, how do we fix that? How do we help them help themselves?"

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