AKWESASNE MOHAWK TERRITORY – The thirteen chiefs who will serve the Akwesasne community for the next three years as the 2015-2018 Mohawk Council were officially sworn into office on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 during a ceremony held at the Ahkwesahsne Mohawk School on Kawehno:ke (Cornwall Island). Following the MCA’s General Election on June 27, 2015, there are seven new faces taking on Council positions, along with several re-elected chiefs. Their new terms begin immediately.
The swearing-in ceremony was initially planned to be a large, formal event but in order to respect the recent passing of community members a low-key ceremony was held instead; a larger event with formal presentations and a celebratory meal will be held in the near future.
Despite changes to the event’s agenda, the new Council was still welcomed into office with an emotional and uplifting ceremony attended by family members, friends, and outgoing chiefs, including the former Grand Chief Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell.
“I want to give each and every one of you encouragement for the work that you’re going to be doing,” he said. “You’ll notice there’s great strength in the wisdom of our elders because they still carry our language. Part of your responsibility also is to carry that for us… not just books, not just meetings, but the heart and spirit of the community. So I wish you all the best. Good luck. On behalf of the community, we pass this on: May you all look after all our thoughts, carry us in your minds, provide the kind of leadership we all expect from our leaders and may you all stay in good health.”
MCA’s Executive Director also offered motivational words for the new Council:
“Our organization has 800 individuals working hard – some day and night – for the community and we’ve been working hard for a long time,” said Executive Director Sheree Bonaparte. “We look for leadership; we look for decisions; and I believe the community has chosen the best individuals to come forward at this time…I pledge that the administration, the directors, the managers and the employees will do everything that we can to work with you; to take your joint decisions and to move them forward; to help this community; to help us survive; to help us to lead the lives that we want to lead and stand among the best of the First Nations in North America.”
The newly-elected Council is comprised of one Grand Chief and twelve District Chiefs. Grand Chief Abram Benedict is a resident of Kawehno:ke (Cornwall Island) and has served on Council as a Kawehno:ke District Chief for the past three terms (nine years). The twelve District Chiefs, four for each of the three Akwesasne districts, are:
Tsi Snaihne (Snye) District Chiefs – Joe Lazore, Karen Loran, April Adams-Phillips and Connie Lazore.
Kana:takon (St. Regis) District Chiefs – Steve Thomas, Timothy “Dooley” Thompson, Ryan Jacobs and Darryl Lazore.
Kawehno:ke (Cornwall Island) District Chiefs – Louise Thompson, Vince Thompson, Troy Thompson and Dennis Chaussi.
Akwesasne Justice Shannon Hall conducted the Oath of Office to each Council member before having them sign pledges, which affirmed the roles and responsibilities of a chief.
Grand Chief Abram Benedict gave his first official speech in his new position and welcomed his fellow Council members, providing some insight as to what direction he hopes to see MCA and the community move in.
“We have many community priorities,” Grand Chief Benedict said. “Over the next year, I intend to work with Council to engage the community to identify the top priorities. We know that the needs and wants are great, but we must work together to identify the most pressing and urgent needs. It’s evident that we have the ability to develop well thought out plans, plans for job creation, plans for community infrastructure, and plans for language revitalization, just to name a few. Our solutions will start from the ground up and not from the top down, and we will engage with you to develop highly effective lobbying strategies and plans of actions to execute.”
“I know that together we are going to lead by example and we will make a difference for the generations to come.”
Congratulations, good luck and best wishes to the new Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Chiefs.