The Assembly of First Nations is choosing its new national chief next week in Ottawa and the candidates are vying for Six Nations’ support.
Three candidates visited the community on Monday and spoke about their platforms at Six Nations Elected Council’s political liaison meeting on Monday, with most agreeing the AFN needs to be restructured.
Chief Dean Sayers from Batchewana said his focus is also on housing, and helping First Nations people deal with opioid addictions gripping the communities across the country.
Pushing for a continued revival of culture, language and spirituality are also at the top of his list.
“Those are the core essence of nationhood,” he said. “When we’re united, we can do a lot better job at being able to confront those things (effects of colonization).”
Coun. Helen Miller told him if he was elected, Six Nations would need a lot of support from the AFN on its land claim case expected to be heard in court next year.
“It’s the largest land claim in the history of Canada,” Miller said. “We need a lot of support.”
“The AFN should be supporting in whatever way they can,” he said.
Craig Makinaw, Chief of the Ermineskin Cree First Nation in Alberta, said internal issues at the AFN need fixing and the AFN needs to arm the chiefs when they go to Ottawa with issues affecting First Nations.
“We’re there to support them.”
Reginald Bellerose, chief of the Muskowekwan First Nation, also agrees the chiefs need to be united to push First Nations issues forward.
“The confidence in the AFN is low right now. We need to show the chiefs the AFN is united.”
And even though the AFN advocates for First Nations across the country, he said, “I’m not going to speak for Six Nations. Six Nations needs to speak for Six Nations. Not me. You’re here by your people. If you need assistance on land claims, let’s get to the right minister. If Six Nations helps me get there, I’ll say, ‘you gotta go see Six Nations.’”
He’s also intent on restructuring the AFN and how it conducts meetings, as well as justice reform for First Nations offenders.
The elections will take place Dec. 5 to Dec. 7 in Ottawa.
Other nominees include Sheila North, David Pratt, and Cindy Woodhouse.
The Assembly of First Nations is a national advocacy organization that works to advance the rights and goals of First Nations across Canada.