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Dehcho Grand Chief ousted in non-confidence vote

Dehcho Grand Chief Kenny Cayen was voted out of his leadership position during a video conference Feb. 16, NNSL Media has learned.
Dehcho Grand Chief Kenny Cayen was voted out of office due in a non-confidence vote on Feb. 16, according to chiefs reached by NNSL Media. NNSL file photo

Dehcho Grand Chief Kenny Cayen was voted out of his leadership position during a video conference Feb. 16, NNSL Media has learned.

The vote was unanimous among those in attendance, according to one source.

The Dehcho First Nations is the public government for the Dehcho region representing eight First Nations and two Metis groups.

Cayen, of the West Point First Nation, was acclaimed to the position in 2021 during the 28th Dehcho Annual Assembly in Fort Providence.

NNSL Media has been able to confirm that at least three chiefs were not present at the meeting but heard about Cayen’s removal after the fact.

Chief Lloyd Chicot, who was also travelling that day and out of cell range, said he could not cast a vote and that it is rare for a Grand Chief to be voted out of office.

Certain procedures to hold office were not followed, Chicot said.

“The direction was given back before Christmas that there were certain things that he had to do like hold ceremonies, have an oath of office and that kind of stuff but that was never done,” Chicot said.

“Normally when we have an acclaimed chief, the assembly puts forward a policy that the grand chief has to go by. He has to swear in for a swearing-in ceremony and has to report to the office in Fort Simpson through the work of the assembly. That didn’t happen.”

Chicot said a vote on the matter was put off twice in recent months to give Cayen time to move to Fort Simpson or make arrangements to be in the First Nations office Monday to Friday, but that didn’t happen, either.

Chicot said he expects the Dehcho First Nations executive committee will appoint an interim grand chief to set the direction for the communities until the next Dehcho Assembly is held in the spring.

Chief Steven Vital of the Nahanni Butte Dene Band also heard the news recently.

“I just heard that myself that as of Monday (Feb. 21) he was voted out due to non-confidence,” Vital said.

“I didn’t even get to have a vote. I just heard about it just this week because it came to my email.”

Chief Dolphus Jumbo, of the Saamba K’e First Nation, could not be reached Wednesday, but was also not in attendance for the vote due to travel, according to his office.

Ramona Pearson, communications coordinator with the Dehcho First Nations declined to comment on all questions regarding Cayen when reached by phone on Feb. 23.

The Dene Nation stated that because its role involves working as a partner with all five regions of the NWT to advance the rights and interests of Denendeh citizens that it does not get involved in how regional First Nations groups are governed.

“We do not have a formal response as this matter is not for Dene Nation to make (a) comment,” stated Leanne Goose, Dene Nation spokesperson.

“We do not participate in these conversations as it is a regional issue that is for the DehCho Nations to address in their way.”

Goose said that Dene Nation is uncertain of how rare it is for a grand chief to be voted out in such a way and that Dehcho bylaws and council will guide its next steps to replace the leader.

“Leaders are important to guiding the actions from the people’s concerns that affect their rights and interests,” she said. “We offer our respects that the matter is addressed in a good way that follows our Dene laws, values and principles.”

Several efforts were made on Feb. 25 to reach all chiefs and Metis presidents, as well as Cayen.

They did not get back to NNSL Media by end of day Wednesday.