Waywayseecappo First Nation members will go to the polls Feb. 23, with 37 of those members vying for a seat on council and one member challenging current Chief Murray Clearsky.
In 2019, Waywayseecappo had a registered population of 2,818 people, with 1,604 living on reserve.
Jeremy Shingoose, Clearsky’s challenger, is running on a platform of transparency, accountability and putting community members first, according to a post on a community Facebook page.
"Everywhere life takes me, I always tell people I am an Anishinaabe from Waywayseecappo and that it is the greatest place on Earth. This is not an exaggeration. I believe in a community that is an innovator, a pioneer, and a nation that others look up to in every aspect of life," Shingoose wrote.
"I am well versed and educated in many aspects of Indigenous life because of this I will be able to represent our community on a national level, a corporate level, and a community level. I’m fuelled by passion, with lots of great ideas and practical experience, it would be an honour to serve the people of Waywayseecappo — the greatest place on Earth."
Clearsky, who has been Waywayseecappo’s leader for 32 years, said his record speaks for itself.
"From what I’ve done for the community, if they want to continue succeeding, I guess I’m the guy," said Clearsky.
"Everything that we do have ever since I became chief, it’s been established."
Until four years ago, elections at the reserve were held every two years, as per the Indian Act. The reserve now follows the First Nations Election Act, which mandates four-year terms. Clearsky, who has never been acclaimed, has seen challengers in each election and recalls one close call quite a few years go.
Normally, debates are held, but Clearsky said that won’t happen at this election because of the pandemic.
Current councillors are Mel Wabash, Anthony Longclaws, Tim Cloud, Travis Cloud, Joe Gambler and Chantel Wilson — all of whom are running for re-election.
The remaining 31 members running for council are as follows: Ashley Brandon, Brad Brandon, Dean Brandon, Laura Brandon, Carolyn Clearsky, Chrystella (Stella) Clearsky, Eileen Clearsky, Mark Clearsky, Bernalda (Peanut) Cloud, Christopher AJ Cook, James Cote, Hugh Hill, Brennan Huntinghawk, Kenneth Huntinghawk, Brenna Ironstand, Tyrene Jandrew, Roderik Keewatincappo, Carla Ledoux-Huntinghawk, Sidney Longclaws, Lisa Makwebak, Eric Mentuck Jr., Grace Mentuck, Quentin Mentuck, Paul Mentuck Jr., Graham Procure, Huston S. Shingoose, Merle Shingoose, Myles Shingoose, Richard Shingoose, Norbert Tanner and Nathan Twovoice.
Clearsky said 37 people running for six council seats is not unusual — he recalls 34 at the last election. Sometimes that number has dipped down into the 20s.FIRST NATIONS ELECTIONS
Prior to the introduction of the Indian Act in 1876, communities were self-governing and leadership was designated according to each community’s tradition. Under the Indian Act, elections became cumbersome, people could be nominated without consent, getting ballots to off-reserve members is an inaccurate process, contact lists are often not up to date, there is no provision for a recount if the tally is close, and no advance polling.
One of the greatest frustrations with Indian Act elections is that they must be held every two years, which is not a very big window for First Nation governments to accomplish anything long term. In comparison, federal, provincial and municipal terms are four years.
• Roughly 200 First Nations continue to hold elections, according to the Indian Act rules
• All elections are subject to the same rules
• Electoral officer is appointed and approved by Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations to oversee election
• Voting can be done in-person on reserve or by mail-in ballot
• The election term is two years.
• Election appeals are dealt with by Crown-Indigenous Relations which can be a slow process
• More than 300 First Nations hold elections according to community or custom election codes
• Community or custom election codes provide the election rules for Nations who are not under the Indian Act election rules
• This section includes communities that have leaders chosen through hereditary or family lines
• Election codes or rules are specific to each community
• Crown-Indigenous Relations is never involved in the process
• Election appeals are dealt with within that community’s election code or by the courts
• Roughly three dozen First Nations hold elections under self-government
• First Nations with self-government develop their own laws and policies
• Election processes and procedures vary according to each First Nation
• Crown-Indigenous Relations is never involved
• Came into force April 11, 2015
• Has an opt-in legislated election system
• Four-year terms of office
• Election appeals are dealt with in the courts
» Sources: Indigenous Services Canada and Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.
Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun