After four years at the helm of the Gwich’in Tribal Council, outgoing Grand Chief Bobbie-Jo Greenland-Morgan said she had bittersweet feelings about stepping down even though she maintains it’s the right thing to do.
However, while she had many reasons for not seeking re-election this fall, it came down to the same reason she chose to run in the first place — family.
“I wouldn’t have put my name forward in the first place without the support of my husband and daughter,” she said. “I could not seek re-lection to another term without that same consensus. We decided last summer. We were up at Midway Lake for the Dene Annual assembly and I made our decision known to the public. Although it was a year ago, I think something like that needs that serious decision.
“Also, I don’t believe in career politics. I believe we have so many educated, experienced and well rounded individuals in our Nation who have something to offer to our people, so I think it’s healthy to always have a rotation of new energy, people, ideas and perspectives.”
Greenland-Morgan said the term went by fast.
“There were times it didn’t seem like it, but overall four years have gone by quickly.”
Saying she tried to keep the focus on ‘big picture’ issues, Greenland-Morgan said one of the most impactful changes she and the team implemented was establishing better accountability measures for the Grand Chief. For example, having to sign a form defining how the position’s credit card can be used, which did not exist before she was elected. A number of other improvements were made to make for a more structured and accountable organization, she added.
There will be a lot to miss from the job, particularly the conversations and advice from Elders and getting out to community events. One thing Greenland-Morgan said she wasn’t going to miss was some of the negatives that come with politics.
“Particularly the ongoing in-fighting and differences that can sometimes carry on between individuals or groups for many years,” she said, noting she spent at least a quarter of her time putting out what she called ‘little fires.’
“It was frustrating for me many times that I had to deal with unnecessary drama when I should have been able to immerse myself in the actual mandated work I was to do.
“All in all it’s the way of the work and at least we as a team were able to resolve some legacy issues in the process. ”
“Our own people have shown to be our own challenge sometimes in the sense that sometime legacy issues and animosities just carry on from generation to generation. In reality, this is so unhealthy and it’s not helping our people grow and advance, it actually holds our own progress back in some cases,” she said. “What we have done and what needs to continue is that open and honest approach and to focus on fixing and improving the organizations structure, bylaws and policies that will continue to make for a very credible organization, one which our people can trust and be proud of.”
“While our people are often fighting amongst each other, a lot of opportunities small or big can be just passing us by because the other governments are not going to wait for us. I truly believe in the strength and resiliency of who we are and who we come from as Gwich’in and it’s far time that our people let go of all that legacy issues and break through to greater things and that is to truly take back our true ancestral knowledge, culture, spirituality, language and practice of doing all our work in a good honest way.
“Much healing is needed, but I believe in my people and know that we are getting there and look forward to new leadership and ongoing success. A people that work together will succeed together. Everyone says they want change, but not everyone is willing to be a part of that change and learn to forgive and move forward.”
She added the most important thing the Grand Chief can do in the job is keep the lines of communication open, take the time to listen to the people who come forward, be sure to listen to concerns and always be honest in any responses to the public. Inclusiveness is also key.
“We are a collective land claim,” she said. “We are supposed to be one people and not divided. Everyone says that they wants unity, but not everyone will do their part to help achieve it. We all need to bring that back and promote equality across the board for our people. When we are strong as one, we can really make positive strides together. It’s not easy.
Noting part of her motivation in stepping aside was to make sure as many people get the experience of the job and see the big picture issues facing the Gwich’in, Greenland-Morgan said she was happy with what all candidates have to offer in the upcoming election and said she saw great potential in the future.
“I am happy to see all of these folks wanting to step up and carry on the work for our people. That makes a big difference,” she said. “When you can see the potential in what can be coming.
“I am pleased that both of our teams with Gwich’in Tribal Council and Gwich’in Development Corporation have made some progress over the term. The results and reporting will show that each year Both GTC and GDC worked into a more positive position and now in a healthier state for continued growth.”
Gwich’in Tribal Council’s election day is Sept. 3.