NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Gwich'in Tribal Council election
Nerysoo's resume hard to beat
Richard Nerysoo says his extensive experience in leadership makes him the man for the job; pledges to promote unity and bring in advisers to work together

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 10, 2014

Richard Nerysoo has a resume that's hard to beat.

NNSL photo/graphic

Richard Nerysoo says uniting the Gwich'in people is the biggest issue facing the council right now.

His 40 years of leadership experience includes a term as premier of the Northwest Territories, MLA for 16 years - 10 of which were spent on cabinet - chair of the NWT Power Corporation, time with the Indian Brotherhood of the NWT and later with the Dene Nation, chief of Inuvik Native Band, president of the Nihtat Gwich'in Council and president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

Most recently, Nerysoo has been working as the senior negotiator for trans-boundary negotiations for the Nacho Nyak Dun in Mayo, Yukon, and on the Assembly of First Nations' national committees on economic development and taxation.

His decision to try to reclaim his old seat at the helm of the Gwich'in Tribal Council didn't come easily, but if elected, he said he is committed to returning to the Beaufort Delta and working to unite all members of the Gwich'in Nation.

He pledges to put in place an advisory team, or perhaps multiple teams, where elders, past leaders and other knowledgeable Gwich'in participants can work collaboratively on issues affecting the GTC.

"I think it's important that we seek the advice of elders and past leaders and knowledgeable Gwich'in simply because you're trying to ensure that Gwich'in participants are involved. When you're dealing with significant issues, you want to hear their thoughts and their ideas," he said.

He stressed the importance of engaging all Gwich'in participants, including those who live outside the Gwich'in Settlement Area.

There are Gwich'in experts out there on many subjects whose voices are rarely heard by the council, and this should change, he said.

"The objective is to ensure that you're utilizing more of your people to assist, at least in my case if I were fortunate enough to win the election, to assist me and draw on the knowledge of Gwich'in participants."

"It's also learning from that experience too, you know," he said, alluding to his previous two terms as GTC president.

"There are some things I think that if you don't learn from the mistakes that you've made but you also haven't gained additional knowledge in my absence of serving away from the GTC outside of the Gwich'in Settlement Area, then really you're not improving your ability to be a better leader."

Nerysoo first served as president of the tribal council from 1996 to 2000. He returned to the position in 2008. He later lost a re-election bid in 2012 to Robert Alexie Jr.

Nerysoo said he wants to be a leader who is open to the ideas and suggestions from all people. That way, the Gwich'in Nation will be able to move farther ahead.

"For me, the biggest issue is uniting our people. You know, we've got big challenges with the downturn in the economy, the uncertainty of where we're going."

That's not to say there are not other major issues that need to be addressed. Work needs to be done on self-government if that is going to become a reality, the Peel Watershed must be protected, frank discussions and decisions have to be made about fracking, both in the NWT and the Yukon, upstream of the Gwich'in Settlement Area, and more.

However, without unity, all of these issues become much harder to deal with, said Nerysoo.

"Let's disagree, let's not be disagreeable," he said.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.