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Letter to the Editor: Who gave the ‘abandon ship’ order?


From: Lawrence Norbert,

Elder-in-training/Gwich’in participant

On Sept. 26, 2000, the Greek ferry MS Express Samina struck rocks in the Bay of Parikia off the coast of Paras Island in the central Aegean Sea, resulting in 81 deaths and the loss of the ship. The cause of the accident was crew negligence, for which several members were found criminally liable, including abandoning ship without the captain’s permission.

How can anyone find anything dissimilar to an elected leader abandoning his or her place of office — let alone region or area — without permission from his or her electorate?

For that matter, how can the top executives of the Gwich’in Tribal Council, i.e. the grand chief, the chief operating officer and the chief financial officer, plus the chief executive officer of the Gwich’in Development Corporation, live and work from outside the Gwich’in Settlement Region? Oh, and let’s not forget the GTC executive assistant position!

Would the citizens of the Tlicho Government or beneficiaries of the Inuvialuit Settlement Corporation accept such a move of their leader and executive officers to outside their regions? Would the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories support such a move?

Well, folks, when poop hits the fan, some guys run and some guys stay. The Teetl’it Gwich’in and Gwichya Gwich’in leaders are here in the Gwich’in Settlement Region facing the fire and there’s our top “leader” hiding in the board’s pocket in E-Town.

I don’t know if the Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic DGO leaders’ media silence is right or wrong. I’m not a judge or jury, but I say this: they won’t desert their people to ‘pursue’ their futures down south. That’s called integrity and courage. That’s the stuff our leaders should be made of.

One measure of desertion is by leaving or remaining absent from one’s organization or place of duty, where the intent is determined to be to avoid hazardous duty or shirk contractual obligation.

If the board is unable or unwilling to recall the grand chief, then they must call a special assembly that will provide direction, leadership and standards in ethics and leadership which reflect the best interests of the tribal council rather than the whims of one person! Otherwise, who knows if one or more of the Gwich’in community leaders might also want to move south to reduce the cost of travel, of course.

For those of our true Elders and leaders who have passed on, fighting for decades for our Gwich’in rights and land, bringing decision-making home to us, thankfully they are not here to witness this fiasco.