Chiniki First Nation held their election Dec. 8. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, only scrutineers were permitted inside the Bearspaw Youth Center to witness the count. However, the entire event was livestreamed online.
The joke here is that it was over before most people could log on. We are used to the long arduous process of counting each ballot by hand and listening to the crowd cheer … Or jeer. It makes for an exciting evening.
Re-elected for another term are Chief Aaron Young and veteran councillors Jordie and Charles Mark who received 206 and 204 votes, respectively. The Mark clan trifecta was reduced by one with Colin Simeon (Mark) losing his bid for reelection. Also defeated on election night was Charles Powderface.
Newly elected was Boyd Wesley who received 314 votes. Wesley is a well-known singer in the Native country and gospel music community. Also newly elected was Verna Powderface who received 217 votes. Powderface is the first woman to be elected to leadership by Chiniki voters since the late Georgie Chiniki last served.
Councillor Powderface follows in the footsteps of her late husband Councillor Clifford Powderface who battled cancer and subsequently died while in office. Councillor Clifford Powderface was a humble leader who represented his people with respect and dignity.
Councillor Clifford Powderface always reminded his children that it was he who was elected not the family. He taught his children to respect people and uphold cultural traditions. He was also a respected spiritual leader and Sun Dance holder. As his wife, Verna was the Head Dancer.
Verna Powderface had a tremendous teacher in her late husband. She also holds a diploma in social work and has had a long career in child welfare protection. With her education and professional experience, Councillor Powderface has truly earned her position on council. She was not voted in by her clan which is refreshing.
According to Chiniki CEO, Brian Evans, Chiniki is now on its way to financial recovery. Although still grappling with significant debt, they were able to open the new Smitty’s Restaurant as a franchise in which Chiniki is the operator. This has created much needed employment and revenue. Evans reports that credit card sales exceed cash sales indicating tourists are now frequenting this business.
The CEO and Chiniki seem to have plans. Evans indicated that the grocery store would now become a community kitchen and renovations are underway. This will provide a much-needed service for people in our community.
Voter turnout was significantly low this year which was surprising. A total of 666 people voted for position of chief. However, the results do indicate a desire for change. Councillor Boyd Wesley represents generational change where Verna Powderface represents women in leadership.
Congratulations to all who were elected to serve Chiniki.