October 8, 2016
Candidates in attendance: George Johnson, Christabelle Carlick, Grace Southwick, Monica Johnson
Note: Bertha Doris sent in a response by email as offered to Candidates not in able to attend (CLICK TO READ IT).
1) Can you tell us what personal values you would bring to Council and tell us about your commitment to being on Council? What is your motivation to be at the leadership table?
George: I want to see changes. Citizenship is one area and specifically US citizens. What prevents a US Citizen from running for Chief? Is that right? It is a different country and you have to cross a border and answer to border agents. Our Constitution leaves that wide open. I think that’s wrong. Also, I don’t see any action taken on the moose population in this area. They should have a limit on the age of moose you can shoot. In the Yukon there is no limit but there should be. The moose population is not given a chance. If you want a strong voice on council that will be heard then that is who I am.
Christabelle: Some of my personal values are that I’m hardworking and committed. Like George I want to see change as well. I’m committed to making unbiased decisions if I get to the Council table. I’m motivated and I want to be a spokesperson for the people.
Monica: States that she is here today to learn and get a feel for what it will be like to be on Council.
Grace: I made a choice to run for Council again. I am very committed to Council and the three years I was on Council, I missed two meeting and came to every meeting prepared. I read all my documents, I am up to date on what’s going on and ready to make the decisions that need to be made. I take my position very seriously and put my heart and soul into it. I want to see the things done in the last three years and the years before that continue to move forward and do the things we were tasked to do. Such as returning people to the land, the water treatment facility and the other projects that have been started that need to be completed.
2a) Can you tell us what part of our Final Agreement you would focus on to ensure we are implementing and taking advantage of opportunities to further our economic development aspirations? What areas of economic development do you think KFN needs to focus on to enhance our community into the future?
Christabelle: One thing with Economic development is that we need to follow our agreement. In Chapter 22 KFN is supposed to get benefits from Companies that work in the TT. We don’t always see that. I know that this summer (the companies working on the highway) one did not have any KFN citizens working and the other had some. We need to start pushing YG so that when these contracts or bids come up that these companies get points for hiring KFN. I think it’s really important that we start getting contract or jobs with these companies that are coming and going on our traditional territory.
George: I think we should make reasonable choices in regards to economic development. Look at all the buildings we have here. I say we need to rethink the uses for buildings. They eat up energy when it’s not used regularly. It doesn’t justify building new buildings or large structures that need to be maintained for fifty years. There’s no economic development in that. I all for promoting small businesses. The way I see it happening is KFN is going to have come up with a loan structure. The whole Yukon depends on Dana Naye. What can’t a corporation set a loan program that members can apply provided that they have a good business plan and they are going to move ahead and benefit their future and KFNs future. There can be limits. We have lots of land which we are not making use of. We can build a structure up by Copper Joe (Park entrance) from all over the world there are plenty of opportunities. Let’s give the government back to the people.
Grace: The opportunities in the Park need to be explored more and we need to work towards implementing those portions of our agreements that give us access and give us economic opportunities in the Park. If we go forward with the Iconic Experiences it would be the start and from there I can see a lot of great opportunities for the Citizens to have economic tourism opportunities in the Park and as well Asi Keyi Park if the management plan goes ahead. I would concentrate on opening up the Park for us to have those economic opportunities.
2b) As an Alaskan citizen and citizen of KFN, I notice that the majority of the forms for assistance and funding requires that we live in Canada. If we HAVE to be living in Canada for funding and assistance than what's the point of us being enrolled?
Grace: This is a really difficult question and it’s very personal. The point of being enrolled is it’s a privilege to be enrolled, it’s a benefit to be enrolled. KFN Elders no matter where you live still get the monthly Elders payment. There are the benefits of coming home to harvest. People come here to get their moose or sheep. When it comes to financials there are many restraints on what you can do financially. It’s beyond our control as it’s written into the law that we can’t spend our money on programs outside of Canada or even outside of the Yukon. That’s the nature of the funding. We cannot hand it out unilaterally across the world. There are other benefits to be had, but if people want to return home or live in the Yukon they would have the same benefits of you and I living here.
Christabelle: With the Elders payments everybody gets that. With the other benefits it must have been written into the system way before and those things I think are fair. We choose to live where we want to live. If I chose as an Elder to live in the States I would knowingly give up my rights. If US citizens come or call into meetings they are still paid honoraria. It’s how our agreements were written and can not be changed. The Elder’s fuel comes out of our core budget and to offer it across the board would affect our budgets.
George: I think most people know where I stand on this. I don’t believe that the rights of KFN citizens can extend across the border. When people move to another country they can’t bring those rights with them. They have to abide by the new countries rules. I don’t support having members being able to draw assistance if you are living in another country. As far as I’m concerned this is one problem that needs to be fixed. I believe that if you want to be involved in your government you have live in Canada and be a resident of the Yukon. Simple as that and straight across the board.
3a) How do you promote health and wellness in your own life and how would you promote health and wellness in the community?
Christabelle: I have four children and teach them to harvest. Being part of the community is really important to me. Teaching my children through potlatch and respect for elders or if someone needs help you give them a helping hand. I try to practice that and teach that to my children. If we are going to promote health and wellness our education funding needs to be more open. I don’t think that there should ever be denial of assistance to people who are trying to help themselves. We find any way to help them. It’s important that we don’t close our doors to anyone who needs help.
George: Personal issues are really hard to overcome. I would like to see more emphasis put on individuals. I believe that you have to promote the person and convince them that there is a better life out there. It has to begin with the person. The onus is up to the individual because you can’t force the change. Can’t rely on KFN to make the change for them. There are programs that KFN can start like a sawmill. Sure they will miss some days, but at least the opportunity is there. They may not be there one day but maybe they will try the next day. You to open the doors and and leave them open.
Grace: I agree with George that it is an individual choice to be healthy or not. One of the things that KFN is doing right is that we have counsellors for people to talk and look forward to when they are crisis or the need help. I’m hearing that it’s working really well for some people, not all, but if we can help one or two people that really need it then keep going forward in that direction. We can’t force people to go to treatment. They will fail because they are being forced. People have to want to make that change.
3b) I’m getting close to retirement and want to retire at home in Burwash-can you comment on elder accommodation and accessibility currently and in the future?
Grace: That is a difficult one to comment on. It’s an individual choice to live in the community here or in Haines Junction, Whitehorse or wherever else. At Council three years ago it was discussed to build an Elders facility and we were told flat out “do not build that for us, we do not want that”. The Elder’s told us that they wanted to reside in their homes. All KFN can do is assist in that choice to reside in your home and help out the best we can by to providing better access like wheelchair ramps and safety access. When it comes to health that is a totally different thing and beyond KFNs abilities to provide nursing 24/7 to every Elder. It’s tough one and I don’t know how we are going to move down that road.
Christabelle: KFN does have elders programs like the luncheons, workshops, they do yoga and different things like that. They have Elder’s transport. I think for Elders who want to retire in Burwash it’s a great place to live. It doesn’t cost much and the more people that live here the better. I think Homecare needs to be defined better. Currently it’s house cleaning and driving. It’s not good enough. If you are trained in homecare there are many more things that you can do. There are Elders who want to come home but need the extra care. We spend a lot of money on Ec Dev in our budgets even if we put 10% more towards homecare it may be a change that needs to take place because our Elders are getting older. So define homecare better and put more funding towards it.
George: I will comment on social programs in general. In the last 6-8 years we’ve seen that program grow. The thing is that 90% of the budget is being spent on staff. Burwash is so small. We’d be lucky if we can count 50 people in the winter and yet we have a government is set up to administer to a lot more people. We’ve only got 200 members. It tells us that money is being spent rampantly. Policies being changed costs lots of money. We don’t have a lot of Elders and have a lot of staff. I would like to see cut backs. KFN spent 9.5 million last year, but on what?
4) How have you personally revitalized and practiced our and traditions culture? And how would you promote traditions and culture to the community.
George: The world has changed from when I was growing up to nowadays, it’s two different worlds. We are not hunters and gatherers anymore. We’ve become promoters. We want to promote our government and our businesses. We’re capitalists. Everything we do these days involves money. Whereas when I was growing up it didn’t matter if you were rich or poor. We had the same values. The focus has changed for KFN members now. We want to build and develop our businesses and members so they go across the world and say yes I am from Burwash Landing and yes I am a KFN member. The best thing the last government has done was to form the Traditional Pursuits Funding. It’s a great idea and people make use of it. Gets people back on the land and people learn the skills of their ancestors. You just have to get out there and do it.
Christabelle: I always have a willingness to learn. I love Harvest Camp and my family and I haven’t missed a year. For my own practices I’ve learned a lot in potlatch, through harvests - we hunt, fish and berry pick. I didn’t live in Burwash growing up but spent every summer here living with my Grandmother and it had a huge impact on me and that’s why I’m here today. I love this place and can’t see myself going anytime soon.
Grace: For me it’s my gardening, hunting, harvesting, berry picking. Going to the cabin being out on land. Sharing with my family and teaching my nephew, daughter and grandchildren how to harvest, where to go, what to do when you have the harvest. How to prepare and treat everything. As for revitalization I thoroughly enjoy that. I come to classes offered on beading and other activities that are offered through KFN. Learning to do things that I never did before.
5) Can you tell KFN citizens how you have upheld the First Nation value of land stewardship?
Chrissy: There is no real answer to the question but there is a statement. We are all responsible for this land. It’s my responsibility to respect the land and the water. Only me as an individual can do that. Whether it’s picking up garbage in my yard or on the highway. It’s all of our responsibility to respect the land and water.
George: Lands stewardship goes the whole environment issue. Basically what have we done to respect the environment? One thing I’d like to see is to finish off the lands policy. We’ve got a lot of new lots and new road in Copper Joe. The way Burwash grows it will take 34 years to fill. Land stewardship involves everything - the environment, your wildlife, water, air, the quality of the things around you. I would like to see KFN have land stewardship monitors. We are the biggest landowners in the region. Needs to constantly be monitored especially the Cat A and Cat B lands. Got to have someone out there to monitor not just the wildlife, but all lands. It’s an important job that has to be implemented. A stewardship monitor can be similar to game warden. We have to start putting value to our money.
Grace: I agree with Christabelle. We are all stewards of the land to protect it for us and our future generations. I don’t think you can put one person in charge of 350 square meters of land. Its up to all of us. Up to all KFN Citizens speak up when they see things that are wrong.
6) What have you done in the last two years to build up the community? (Activity or event that you’ve initiated, participated or volunteered at)
Christabelle: I’ve been a part of the community for 5 years. For me it’s not just coming here to get a pay check. I go to community events and camps and I try to be involved. Involved in fundraising at the school. One, because I’m a parent and two, it helps our students go on field trips like the last year to Ottawa where they met the Prime Minister. I volunteer for events we have here. I try to help people where I can. I think that me being part of the community is me helping to make it a community.
George: I have been here for most of my life. Of my 58 years I’ve probably been away from Burwash for less than 8 years. I haven’t participated in the last two years because everyone knows I’ve been chasing gold which has taken quite a bit of time, but the fever is over! I’ve always been a part of this community and always will. I support anything as long as it’s economical and common sense things.
Grace: I try to come to most of the functions in Burwash. Logistically being at everything is a challenge. I try to help out where I can, volunteering, cooking, cleaning and being a part of the community. I’m there when someone needs me. That to me is being a part of the community.
Question from the floor: How are you and Council going to plan for the next 8 years? With the end of the transfer payments coming after 20 years?
Chrissy: KFN goes up for FTA renewal in 2020 and we have to be careful of under spending as it can affect that the amounts that we can negotiate. We can’t say that we can put money away now for the future because it can impact how much we can get in the future. Other First Nations are in that situation right now. We can start building on economic development. Our money making business is with Kluane Dana Shaw and that will be our future development. The better businesses and money we can make with KDSC will help our future. We can rely on the Government forever and it needs to start there. I support economic development because I will have grandchildren one day.
Grace: I agree with Chrissy. It’s through economic development that we will be sustainable in the future. We have to continue to move forward on that. KDSC is doing great. We need to keep moving in this direction. KDSC is making good money for us and hopefully in the future we will see dividends. Maybe through those dividends our people can start their own businesses. Our people need to support themselves and not rely on KFN. We will still need to have programs and services but if we have self reliant people that is the answer. They will teach their children to be self reliant. In economic development we have all the mining if we should every choose. We have great land selections that will be self sustainable if KFN needs in the future they have the opportunity to go mining. We have the resources. We need to develop properly. For tourism, it can be developed as we have one of the most spectacular places in the world. The young people coming on council will have their own vision of what the future will look like.
George: Economic development brings into light everything that we enjoy life with including our health and wellness. Businesses have to be viable and if the business isn’t viable then we shouldn’t throw money at it. In regards to implementation, the Government has the FN - “in a tight spot” - because everything is hinged on something else. Everything is subject to something else. Everyone says the Indian people get free money, but it’s not free. You have to dance and dally your way around to even get them to reimburse you for the money you’ve spent. Most government funding hinges on something else. I believe KFN has to start looking at promoting their own members. The more small businesses that you have or give the opportunity to develop the better off you are. If you build a business that is successful, it also is for the benefit of KFN - that’s where you start building your knowledge, because you know you’re are helping and being your own boss, all these things come into play, if you can build a business that is successful then it’s for the betterment of the whole community and all KFN members. And to the benefit of KFN. We can’t go backwards, we have to go forwards. Only way to go forward is to be self reliant. Small ideas become big ideas.