Kenny Cayen has been elected the new chief of West Point First Nation.
Cayen emerged the winner in a close race among three candidates for chief in a general election on June 11.
The new chief collected 14 votes, while incumbent chief Becky Cayen garnered 13 votes and another candidate, Kandice Thomas, came in a close third with 11 votes.
“People wanted a change in leadership and they want somebody with a strong voice,” said Kenny Cayen the day after the election.
The new chief previously served on council for just a few months about a decade ago.
However, he explained he returned to band politics at the encouragement of elders.
“It was actually an easy decision for me because I take pride in my heritage on both sides of my family,” he said. “I have family in Ontario and family here in West Point, and all over the Deh Cho. I’m definitely looking forward to working for the future of the community and all communities around here.”
The role of chief at West Point First Nation is a part-time position.
However, Cayen noted the band will be looking at ways to get funding to make it a full-time position.
“Because we need somebody at the table all the time and we need a full-time chief,” he said.
Cayen believes he won support to be the new chief partly because he likes to go on the land, has previously been a commercial fisherman and does a lot of traditional activities.
The new chief has also worked as a dozer operator and a driver, since he has a class one licence.
“I’ve got multiple things that I’ve done,” he said.
The 38-year-old is the father of three children.
As of June 12, the new chief was still to be briefed on all the issues facing West Point First Nation.
“The big issue that my elders and the other families were running up against was transparency,” he said. “We really didn’t know on a leadership level what was going on.”
Cayen has been elected to a three-year term as chief.
“I’m just looking forward to working with everybody,” he said. “It’s going to be a good experience, I think, for me. It’s going to help me build character in myself and hopefully I can return that to the community to build character here in the community once again, where maybe we have failed in the past. I just want to do the best I can and learn as much as I can.”
Cayen also describes himself as a very spiritual person.
“So I do a lot of prayer for the community, for myself and for my kids so everybody can live a healthy and safe life,” he said. “I don’t just pray for myself. I pray for all people in the world.”
Four members were also acclaimed to council in the June 11 election. They are Shannon Buckley, Devon Felker, Sonya Frise and Lucille Lafferty.
West Point First Nation has about 75 members, including children.
Many members live in the West Channel area of Hay River, where the band offices are located.