“The main problem is (expletive) like Kevin O’Reilly, a white boy who thinks he has all the solutions because he is a white boy and the natives need him.”
Whoa, take it easy, eh!

That was Willard Hagen commenting on social media about NNSL publisher and CEO Bruce Valpy’s column in News/North from Sept. 16 called “What’s really wrong with Dene land claims in NWT.”

Valpy wrote: “Over the years, GNWT bureaucrats have operated on the idea that whatever powers and land the Dene governments get from the feds is a potential invasion of their turf. They resisted and urged their masters in cabinet, if not the assembly, to resist.” True dat.

Valpy went on to urge people who win seats in the territorial election to get cabinet to pull the GNWT out of land claims negotiations and let the claims be negotiated by Ottawa and the Indigenous governments alone.

I agree with Valpy. Many Indigenous leaders have stated privately and publicly that the GNWT is now running the show in land claim negotiations and they are much harder to deal with than the feds ever were. Tsk, tsk. Not cool.

It’s only recently the GNWT was even allowed to have their own voice at the negotiating tables. They began as part of the federal team and began dictating negotiations after devolution. But even with devolution, it is still an arm of the federal government.

Land claim negotiations should reflect reality; the GNWT should be part of the federal team and not a separate party at the negotiation table. Well yaaaaaaa!

There are over 5,000 Indigenous people in Yellowknife. That’s about 25 per cent of the population or one in every four people. If we all vote, we could really make a difference in who is elected here.

Last election, I ran in the Frame Lake constituency. One of the big reasons was that it is the Yellowknife area that had the largest Indigenous population.

When I went door to door in the constituency, virtually all of the Indigenous people I saw said they were glad I was running and would vote for me. Yay team.

We kept track of the people who said they supported me and got their phone numbers.
On election day, we contacted them and asked them if they wanted a ride to go vote. Almost all of them said they would go vote on their own. Woohoo.

Many of them said they already voted, and we kept track of everybody who said that. We also had people at the polls keeping track so we knew who had voted – and who didn’t.

An Indigenous person, who I’ll call Bob, ran in a previous election in Yellowknife and he also said many, many Indigenous people who said they would vote for him did not go out and vote, because his team kept track of who voted too. Not cool, man.

Rock the Indigenous Vote

So the point to all of this is that Indigenous people need to get out and vote. If all the people who said they would vote for Bob and I had indeed voted, we would have been elected. And Indigenous people can get other good people elected. If we just get out and vote!

Before the last federal election, a Facebook page called “Rock the Indigenous Vote” was created by Cara Currie-Hall, a First Nations lady from Maskwacis.

Cara felt Canada needed a change in government and that Indigenous people could collectively sway the vote.

It was awesome to see Facebook pictures of long lineups in First Nations communities across Canada, and stories of elders voting for the first time, or young people bringing family members to vote. Woohoo.

The outcome was a huge surge of Indigenous people running for office across Canada and the largest amount of Aboriginal people who ever won a seat.

With that said, we Indigenous people need to get off our butts and vote, and we need to encourage our grandparents; aunties and uncles; cousins and friends to go out and have their votes counted.

We are 25 per cent of the population here in Yellowknife and 50 per cent of the NWT.
Our vote will make a difference, especially because we want the right people to be at the land claims negotiation table.

Roy Erasmus

Roy Erasmus Sr. Is a certified wellness counsellor who survived heart disease and a former member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.

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