Editor’s note: This letter has had a paragraph appended to the bottom following its printing in the August 11 edition of the Inuvik Drum.

In its July 15th media release, the Gwich’in Tribal Council gave notice that it would be asking delegates to the upcoming Annual General Assembly in Tetlit Zheh (Fort McPherson) to amend its bylaw by getting rid of the Deputy Grand Chief position. The release did not give a reasonable explanation as to why a referendum was not held (as promised) to garner Participants’ support.

In the wake of Mrs. Kristine McLeod’s election as the Deputy Grand Chief, the Gwich’in Nation was bubbling with excitement at the prospect of a young woman in leadership. Here was a leader who shined with confidence of the future — our future! Alas, Camelot was not to be and the dream was cut short in tragedy. Accolades filled social and mainstream media (and presumably the GTC offices), mainly — I would say — from young women who lost a shining role model. Even the GNWT established a leadership award in her honour.

But what did the GTC do? At the first chance, they decided — without consulting the Gwich’in land claim Participants — to abolish the Deputy Grand Chief position, citing costs as a reason. I find that rich, considering the organization has not one but two chief executive positions: a chief executive officer and a chief operating officer!

Also (and with all due respect), I daresay that the March 2021 assembly did not exercise its Duty of Care in handing all powers and authorities plus 11 complex and major portfolios to its one remaining executive member without even considering the emotional, physical and psychological stress, exhaustion and burn-out this workload would place on this one person. No one person can handle this workload — no matter how well qualified!

When there is an arrogation or assumption of dictatorial powers by a presiding officer or board — powers not conferred upon him or them by the organization’s governing law — there is great potential by which its membership is denied the proper exercise of their land claim or bylaw rights. Heck, even then-Vice-President Mike Pence stood up to the abuse of power by the then-US president.

The Gwich’in have always said we need to work as a Team. Our GTC Executive needs to remain a partnership Team of a Grand Chief and a Deputy Grand Chief elected by Gwich’in Participants at large. Every eligible Participant has that right to vote for their leadership (in this case, the Deputy Grand Chief position). It is the fiduciary responsibility of the upcoming Assembly to protect this right, to oppose any movement to place all powers and authorities to one executive position, and to exercise its duty of care for the mental wellness of that one person until an election for DGC is called.

Otherwise, it is a slippery slope we will find ourselves on — the precipice of a one-man show.

Next assembly: they cut the Board from 10 to 5: the president of each DGO and the Grand Chief only. The Assembly after that: they cut Assembly delegates from 7 per community to, say, only the DGO president and one other. IF no Participant or community challenges them!

Thank you,

Lawrence Norbert

Gwich’in Participant

Tsiigehtchic, NT

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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