In this week’s edition we begin our coverage of the upcoming Gwich’in Tribal Council elections, where a new Grand Chief and deputy Grand Chief will be named.
There were a few common themes in my conversations with outgoing Gwich’in Grand Chief Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan and deputy Grand Chief Jordan Peterson in preparation for our stories on their impending departures from their positions, published in this and next week’s edition.
First was the importance of family. In more privileged parts of the country, people tend to wait until the nest is empty before they jump into politics. Up here, that luxury doesn’t really exist — the problems facing people are far more acute and immediate. The need for leaders with high energy and passion is huge, but it means missing important parts of your children’s lives — their birthdays, recitals, championships and adventures. It can be very taxing on people who are in politics because they truly care about the people they live with.
Which segues into the other recurring theme in our conversations — how difficult it is to get and keep good people for local governments. High performers are easy targets for scouts looking for talent to take down south, and it’s quite reasonable to want to raise your family somewhere where they will have an abundance of opportunities and you aren’t on call 24/7.
Politics is a thankless business, and more often than not the people who do thank you secretly want something. The rest are usually too busy living their own lives to notice until something goes awry. The Town of Inuvik demonstrated this perfectly with its five years of public consultations over its new Gateway Sign that ended in an explosion of angry comments and phone calls when the decision was made final.
Then of course, there are those who treat politics like a team sport, where everything from funding to scandals are treated as points in a game with no end. You’ve seen the type, people who bring up Hillary Clinton’s emails when you’re talking about Donald Trump’s catastrophic failures as leader of the free world. Social media seems to have galvanized these types to the point where it feels like elections never end, which only serves to encourage the people mentioned in the paragraph above to tune out even more.
These two opposing forces will wear anyone down after awhile. Some politicians become cynical, which can then lead to corruption. Others dive head-in, mistaking the loyalty of their followers for love.
Neither Greenland-Morgan or Peterson fell into any of that. They both seem to have taken their roles and place in history very seriously. In the time I have been covering life in Inuvik, I probably have seen Bobbie-Jo as often as I’ve seen Mayor Natasha Kulikowski at events. She’s everywhere.
Similarly, at least a dozen things I’ve written about, from Youth Councils to Energy Security, had Peterson behind the scenes getting things figured out. When both of them tell me they just simply can’t keep going 24 hours a day and missing their children’s lives, I believe them.
So I want to wish both of them well and hope they get a good, much deserved break from the hard work they’ve been doing. But I also hope we see them take office again. The world needs more leaders like them.